What is the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?

What is the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?

For starters, below are four key differences between psychiatrists and psychologists:

  • Psychiatrists are medical practitioners, psychologists are not.
  • Psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication, psychologists can’t.
  • Psychiatrists are equipped to treat serious and complicated mental illness; psychologists treat less severe conditions.
  • You will need a referral from a doctor to see a psychiatrist, but don’t for a psychologist.

A large quantity of people get psychologists and psychiatrists confused with one another. Both specialists understand how the brain works, our emotions and thoughts. Both are also able to treat mental illness with psychological treatments.

However, psychiatrists undertake medical school and become doctors before specialising in mental health. Because they are medical specialists, psychiatrists understand the connection between physical and mental problems.


Psychiatrists are medical practitioners with around 11 years of training. They will first do a medical degree, and then they will spend a few years training as a general doctor.

After this, they then complete 5 years of training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

Psychologists have around 6 years of training and supervised experience. They may also have a masters or doctorate qualification in psychology.

Treatments Provided

Psychiatrists are able to provide a wide range of treatments, according to the specific problem and what will work the best. These may include:

  • Psychological treatments
  • Medication
  • Brain stimulation therapies
  • General medical care

Psychologists focus more on providing psychological treatments and therapies.

Do they work together?

Psychiatrists and psychologists frequently work together. A psychiatrist may form an initial assessment and diagnosis, and thereafter refer you to a specific psychologist for ongoing therapy.

In addition, psychiatrists and psychologists may work together in hospitals as part of mental health teams.

If you are looking for a psychiatrist, visit Fourways Health Centre for the best psychiatrist in Johannesburg. Dr Galvin graduated as a medical doctor from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2010. Visit our website today or enquire online and make a booking online!