Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist: What’s the Difference?

Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist: What’s the Difference?

It is all too easy to muddle up the p’s. What is the difference between, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a psychotherapist?

Psychiatrists, are medical doctors, who complete their training in medicine as a regular medical doctor, and then take additional training in mental health. Psychiatrists are doctors who only treat patients with mental illness. It is good to see a psychiatrist if you want to know what mental illness you are struggling with. Although more and more doctors and therapists are moving away from ‘labels’ and ‘diagnoses’, some people still benefit from a clearer understanding of what it is they are dealing with. It is good to see a psychiatrist if you have found it difficult to find a medication that works for you, or are on medications and they are not working, or giving you significant side effects. Psychiatrists are the best people to talk to about any medication concerns. They know far more than your regular family doctor and can help you find a medication or combination of medications that work for you.

Psychologists, are not medical doctors, they have not studied medicine, they have studied psychology – why people behave the way they do, and more. To be a psychologist in Canada you have to have completed 3 degrees in psychology, a Bachelors, Masters and PhD in psychology. Psychologists provide psychotherapy, like psychotherapists, but they are also trained to do extensive testing, specialized assessments, and to diagnose. It is good to see a psychologist if you need a specialized assessment done, such as an education assessment, or a psychological assessment following a motor vehicle accident. We have staff members who can work with a psychologist to provide a motor vehicle assessment, or to provide psychotherapy under the supervision of a psychologist. We also have a psychological associate on staff, Jackie, who is training to become an assistant to the psychologist.

Psychotherapists, psychotherapists are not medical doctors, and not psychologists! They usually have 2 degrees, rather than 3, although some do have PhDs, and many have additional post-graduate education. They provide ‘talk-therapy’ or ‘psycho – therapy’. They may be trained and registered, as doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, or psychotherapists, but they have all chosen to specialize in mental health and the treatment of mental illness.

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