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The two most well known professional titles in the mental health field are those of psychiatrist and psychologist. The differences between them might seem subtle, but in truth each profession is vastly different.
EducationPerhaps the most discernible difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist lies in education and training. Psychiatrists go through college and medical school prior to completing a specialized residency in mental health. Because they are technically medical doctors, psychiatrists are permitted to write prescriptions to address the biological and physiological aspects of mental health. Although psychiatrists are more medically oriented, many are known to practice psychotherapy as well. Psychologists are also well educated, but they do not attend medical school and – at least until recently – are not permitted to prescribe medications. They are, however, skilled at diagnosing mental disorders and are well-versed in the practices of psychotherapy and counseling. SettingPsychiatrists and psychologists are often found in different settings. Psychiatrists are usually found in inpatient mental health clinics, and they usually order medical tests and coordinate patient care with physicians to ensure the best possible treatment.Outpatient settings are more often the realm of psychologists. Whether in private practice or in workplace settings, psychiatrists play an important role in mental health care. Psychologists also are commonly employed in schools.Many major psychological theories have been developed by psychologists, creating the impression that they are more oriented toward research and testing. While this may be true, it is important to recognize that the research conducted by psychiatrists comes more from a medical perspective instead of theory. SelectionHow does an individual decide whether to select a psychiatrist or a psychologist for mental health care? This depends largely on the patient’s problem. For example, a patient diagnosed with depression by a general physician will most likely be referred to a psychiatrist if the patient is unresponsive to primary treatment methods.Students, however, will usually be referred to a psychologist if they have behavioral or learning problems at school. Similarly, an employee having difficulty adapting to the workplace environment would also be seen by a psychologist. Client or Patient?When a person receives services from a psychologist, that person is typically referred to as a “client,” while a person seeing a psychiatrist is generally called a “patient.” This difference might seem subtle, but it typical.Career choicesThose poised to prepare for a career in mental health will usually choose between psychiatry and psychology based on personal preference and career goals. Both fields require highly specialized educational training and are vital to the ongoing effort to help those in need of mental health care.
Drawing upon our more than 30-year history of granting degrees in professional psychology, Argosy University has developed a curriculum that focuses on interpersonal skills and practical experience alongside academic learning. Because getting a degree is one thing. Succeeding, quite another. mark orders: none | all
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