by Marli Naidoo
Psychologists and psychiatrists regularly work together to improve the wellbeing of a patient, and therefore the two disciplines do on occasion overlap. However, there is quite a number of differences between the two, especially regarding the method of treatment.
Because psychiatrists are qualified doctors; they can prescribe medication. They therefore spend a lot of their time with a patient on prescribing the right combination of medicines, and in so doing treat the patient effectively.
Psychologists on the other hand focus extensively on psychotherapy and the treatment of emotional and mental suffering, with the use of behaviour intervention. Psychologists are also qualified to do psychological testing, which is critical to determine a person’s mental condition as well as the most effective treatment.
Psychiatrists and psychologists also differ greatly regarding their training. Psychologists obtain a degree in psychology and then study further for a Ph.D. or Doctor’s degree in Psychology, specific in clinical, counselling or educational psychology. Doctoral programmes typically take five to seven years to complete and an additional one or two years internship for the person to be licensed. During the internship psychology students are exposed to methods of treatment, analytical testing, problem-solving techniques, psychology theory and behaviour therapy.
The title of “psychologist” can be used by an individual who has received the above-mentioned training and is licensed. Informal titles such as “councillor” or “therapist” are also used regularly, but other professionals who also work with mental illnesses, such as social workers, may also use these titles.
Psychiatrists are doctors who received specific training in the evaluation, diagnosing and treatment of mental illnesses. Psychiatrists study at a medical school and obtain a medical degree (MBChB). After their medical training they complete an additional four years of clinical assistant training in mental illness. Additional to the primary training some receive training in specific fields of interest such as geriatric, child and adolescent psychiatry, and substance-dependent psychiatry.
Psychologists ordinarily see their patients on a weekly basis for counselling. Psychiatrists see patients weekly or monthly for therapy, or to make sure their medication is effective, or to adjust the combination or dose of medication. This is known as psychopharmacology.
The one profession is no better than the other. Both work together as a team to establish healing of the mind.
All Psychology Schools: https://www.allpsychologyschools.com/psychology/psychology-vs-psychiatry/
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truisms-wellness/201601/psychiatrist-vs-psychologist
Dr. MS Janse van Rensburg: https://www.psigiater.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=3