Therapist vs Psychiatrist: Which Do I Need?

What is a Therapist?

A therapist is a mental health professional whose job is to help his or her clients give a better understanding of the problem they might be facing and then provide the suitable solution to that problem. Therapists are very empathetic and they are not judgmental about the problem you might be experiencing. They help the client better understand themselves and how they function, teaching them the necessary things they need to live a better life. In essence, therapists are professionally trained to help you through difficult times.

What is a Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical professionals whose jobs are to administer certain kinds of treatment to patients who have mental disorders or have substance abuse issues. They give a diagnosis and help a patient achieve recovery by creating a specific plan for their treatment. Psychiatrists prescribe medications that the patient might need and can also refer them to other medical professionals or admit them into a hospital. They give advice that would help to get your recovery at its peak and make changes to your daily activities.

Psychiatrists are doctors who provide the best treatment for mental health conditions such as anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), depression, autism spectrum disorder and so on. The professionals administer treatments to the patient in different ways including medication, psychotherapy (psychology-based treatment), and psychosocial intervention.

Therapist vs Psychiatrist: The Differences

Although these two professions might seem very similar, they have their differences and it is very important to know the difference between the two before choosing who is best for you.

1. Training

To become a therapist, the general route is to go through a four-year course in a university, most likely psychotherapy or psychology and then become a trainee. They can also choose to get a certificate in counseling. On the other hand, psychiatrists are actually medical doctors who opted to specialize in mental health. The whole process of becoming a qualified psychiatrist will take about 13 years, involving acquiring a medical degree, then spending two years as a medical trainee and thereafter taking a program in a psychiatry specialization for six years.

2. Structure of Appointments

For a therapist vs psychiatrist, the structure of appointments is very different. When you have a problem and you want to meet with a therapist, upon booking an appointment, you can choose to see the therapist for a one-hour session once a week or more than once a week depending on your schedule. For that of the psychiatrist, upon meeting the psychiatrist for the first time, you would just have one session with him or her and then you go for check-ups. Depending on your mental condition, you would need to see the psychiatrist as often as they feel is best for you.

3. Qualification to Prescribe Medication

While psychiatrists are actually licensed to prescribe medication, therapists are not. The therapist’s scope of work does not include prescribing and administering medication as they are not medically trained doctors, which psychiatrists are. Generally, in deciding which you need between a therapist vs psychiatrist, consider that therapists help you recognize your issues while the psychiatrist’s goal is to diagnose your problem and offer treatment.