In this guide, we will discuss “Is it better to see a psychiatrist or psychologist”, the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists, which one is the best choice for you and a few questions you should ask yourself before reaching a decision.
Is it better to see a psychiatrist or psychologist?
If you wonder if it is better to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist, or the difference between going to one or the other, let us tell you that the answer is “it depends”.
It will basically depend on your needs and the approach you would like them to give to your condition or illness.
First, let’s consider how many people will avoid going to a psychologist and will see a psychiatrist because they are the ones that hold the medical degree so they ‘must know more since they are doctors after all’.
In contrast, some people may consider going to a psychologist because they are not ‘too crazy’ to see a psychiatrist and get medicated.
The truth is, even if both are mental health professionals they may have different approaches towards mental disorders or illnesses.
If we were to ask the average person about the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists, most likely they will just talk about what they have heard from other people or what they have seen on TV, so you are not alone.
Moreover, your decision to visit one or the other may rely on your beliefs, the costs, and weighing the pros and cons of therapy versus being medicated. As Bridgett & Lilly (2013) indicate, “A decision to pursue medication-based treatment alone or in combination with other treatments will put you in contact with a medical professional, such as a psychiatrist.
If you belong to the group of people that have experienced the need to talk about their problems seeking advice from a mental health professional then you have probably asked yourself, ‘Do I need a psychologist or a psychiatrist?’.
Here we will discuss what is the difference between them so you can have a clearer idea of which one you could turn to for help.
As indicated in 15minutes4me.com: “A psychiatrist is someone who has first studied medicine to, later on, specialize in psychiatry.
This means that a psychiatrist is a doctor, to which you can come for psychological problems.
The most important difference compared to a psychologist is that a psychiatrist is allowed to prescribe medication, and has not had as much communication technique training as a psychologist.”
It is common for people to think psychiatrists and psychologists are the same, especially when there are some psychologists that can write drug prescriptions, and just as many people believe psychiatrists only prescribe medicine, let us broaden up their professional approach since there are psychiatrists that also specialize in psychotherapy.
Moreover, some might even say psychiatrists focus on the whole person and consider biology, neurochemistry, their personal history, etc., while psychologists’ main focus is behavior, without disregarding other areas of course.
As indicated by Markham Heid from Vice.com: “A psychologist, on the other hand, is someone who has earned either a PhD or PsyD degree depending on if their specialty is likely to be research or clinical practice, respectively.”
Subsequently, psychologists are professionals trained in providing evidence-based psychotherapy conducting psychological assessment or Psych Eval through various techniques, identifying and treating mental health disorders through non-medical approaches.
Moreover, this type of therapeutic approach requires motivation and willingness to change, working towards identified problems, teaching people skills to use beyond the treatment.
However, medication requires little effort and may come with many unwanted side effects, plus stopping the medication will mean problems may come back.
How can I be certain?
It is important to do your research as well as asking yourself the following questions when deciding if a psychiatrist or a psychologist is the best option for you:
What is/are my problem(s)?
If you know which one is the best approach to your problem(s) the first thing to do is to identify which are the problems.
On many occasions you could end up choosing a psychiatrist and they could assess or evaluate what the issue is and advice to seek help from a psychologist or even combine medication and psychotherapy, it could also happen the other way around.
Which one is the best treatment option for me?
The answer to this question isn’t a simple one. For some mental health illnesses or disorders, medication might be the best approach while for others psychotherapy will be enough, no medication needed.
However, as mentioned, on occasion a combination of both may be required.
For instance, in the case of conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) therapy may not be enough and through scientific research, there is evidence that meditation may be effective when treating the core symptoms.
Moreover, as indicated in psychologytoday.com: “For anxiety, although medication can be effective, treatment studies have found that behavioral interventions are as good as or may even outperform medication treatments (e.g., Roshanaei-Moghaddam et al., 2011).
Unless there are complicating considerations, many mental health professionals recommend behavioral interventions for the treatment of anxiety.”
When would I see the effects of treatment?
As much as we would like to see immediate results, no treatment works immediately and they require some time.
This is just like when you want to lose weight, nothing will work from one day to the next, it will require time and commitment so the same happens when expecting to see the results or effects of the treatment.
For instance, many people believe medication is the solution to their problem because they work faster than going to therapy.
However, many people are not aware they may take up to a few weeks to reach therapeutic effectiveness or for you to start noticing the benefits.
On the other side, therapy and counseling may take longer since it requires consistency in assisting your appointments and following your therapist/counselors advice.
Moreover, another question arises and that is ‘what happens if my treatment doesn’t seem to be working?’.
If this is the case after taking medication for several weeks consider talking to your psychiatrist if your medication needs to be adjusted or changed.
However, if you have been assisting in therapy for a few weeks or even months and you feel nothing has really changed, consult it with your therapist and inform them about what can be done.
What type of professional should I see?
This will not only depend on whether it is a psychiatrist or a psychologist but also their expertise in treating certain disorders according to their practice.
It is also important to check on their credentials and their related experience treating people with similar problems as the ones you are experiencing or an expert in your condition.
In addition, if you are having problems with your spouse or your partner, you may seek help from a marriage therapist or if your kid is having problems at school you would probably consult with the school counselor or psychologist.
What if I start the treatment and I don’t feel comfortable?
It can happen that you start your treatment with a certain psychologist or a psychiatrist but you don’t feel comfortable enough or don’t seem to have a good relationship with the professional for x or y reason, you can actually decide to stop and change the person or even their particular treatment approach.
Moreover, you are paying for the treatment and sometimes it can be very costly so you have the right to choose whether to stay or to go.
Why is this blog about Is it better to see a psychiatrist or psychologist important?
As we have discussed, there are some specific differences between a psychiatrist and a psychologist and whether you should seek help from one or the other. Moreover, we talked about a few specific points or questions that can help you reach your choice.
One way or the other, remember you have the right to ask questions, be involved in your treatment or therapeutic approach, and whether it is really what you are looking for or not.
Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Is it better to see a psychiatrist or psychologist
Should I see a psychiatrist or psychologist?
If you would like to know if you should see a psychiatrist or psychologist, consider that a psychiatrist is more likely to prescribe medication as treatment than a psychologist will recommend.
Psychologists base their treatment on different approaches and techniques but none involve medication.
Should I see a psychologist or psychiatrist for anxiety?
You should see a psychologist for anxiety if you would like to treat your anxiety through different methods of psychotherapy, talk therapy, or techniques.
However, a psychiatrist most likely will use a biopsychosocial approach and will focus on the biological aspects of the illness prescribing medication to relieve the symptoms.
Can a psychologist diagnose?
Licensed psychologists can diagnose mental health disorders. Psychologists specialize in mental health but they do not hold a medical degree and they are not entitled to prescribe medication.
However, through psychological tests, methods, and various techniques, they will not only diagnose but treat mental illness.
Why would you see a psychiatrist?
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. They can diagnose and treat people with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, among others.
However, consider going to the psychiatrist when nothing else seems to have worked (i.e. therapy).
How do psychologists diagnose disorders?
Most psychologists diagnose disorders using the criteria described in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5, in the latest edition. When a psychologist assesses a client, they will determine which criteria fit with the symptoms and the information recollected and provided by the client.
Markham, H. (2018, Aug.) How to Tell if You Should See a Psychiatrist Versus a Psychologist. Retrieved from vice.com.
Bridgett, D.J. & Lilly, M.M. (2013, May.) What Type of Mental Health Professional Is Right for You? Retrieved from psychologytoday.com.
15minutes4me.com: “Psychiatrist or psychologist? Which do I need?”