If you're seeking mental health services, you may be wondering the difference between psychologists, psychiatrists, and medical doctors. They all perform important services, but psychopharmacologists in Boston clinics are equipped to help patients by developing new medications that help manage or cure mental conditions.

In this article, we'll outline the important differences between these mental health professionals so you can determine which one is best for your needs.

What Do Psychologists Do?

Psychologists specialize in the study of the mind. They provide services like talk therapy to help their patients work through mental disorders and emotional distress.

They also provide psychological testing, which can assess a person's personality, motivations, and behavior. Psychological evaluations are often used in school systems to determine a student's ability to learn and function in a classroom. In legal systems, they help courts determine a person's mental health issues and reliability.

Overall, their knowledge doesn't deal with the physical, but rather, the mental aspects their patients are facing. They can help people work through issues such as negative thought patterns with talk therapy.

What Do Psychiatrists Do?

Psychiatrists are able to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. They often help their clients manage long-term mental health conditions. In addition to their knowledge in the field, they are also medical doctors. Earning a medical degree gives them the specialized training they need to treat mental health conditions using medications.

They can work with a patient's primary care doctor when that patient is experiencing sudden mental health issues. Psychiatrists may refer you to other medical professionals when necessary, ensuring that you get the best mental health treatment possible.

They can also specialize in fields such as geriatric psychiatry, which may involve more intense medication management than most cases due to preexisting conditions or interactions between medications.

Their area of expertise is focused on biological factors in mental illness, and they can provide essential medical treatment for illnesses like bipolar disorder.

The Differences Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist

Though both of these professionals deal with mental health conditions, there are some key differences in the roles they serve. Psychologists and psychiatrists ultimately have very different purposes in a patient's life, and some people will want to work with both.

They can both diagnose mental illnesses and treat mental health conditions, but they take very different approaches.

Education & Training

One of the main differences is that each role requires different educational backgrounds. Both positions require extensive training and graduate school degrees.

Psychologists are experts with graduate training and experience. They'll either have a master's degree or a doctoral degree in psychology. Psychology students learn how to help people change their behaviors and thought patterns without using medication. Clinical psychologists have in-depth training on how to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.

Psychiatrists, on the other hand, have medical degrees. After going to medical school, they'll also need to study mental illnesses and learn how to diagnose them. Training psychiatrists will take at least 11 years in school, and sometimes more.

Authority to Medicate

Psychologists generally do not have the authority to medicate their patients. In a handful of states and territories with more lenient requirements, they may be able to prescribe medications. These states are:

  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico

But psychiatrists are always allowed to prescribe medication. Their medical training gives them the knowledge and experience necessary to choose medications that fit their clients' symptoms. They can also adjust medication levels and make important suggestions for further treatment.

Treatment Methods

Both psychiatrists and psychologists can provide treatment for a mental health condition. They'll work closely with you to determine the best course of action.

Psychologists specialize in helping people deal with emotional health and psychological issues. Psychological treatments include behavioral therapy and talk therapy to manage negative behaviors and thoughts.

Psychiatrists help their patients navigate complex emotional, social, and medical issues. Medication management is one way they help their patients. They treat mental illness using medications and adjust them as needed, helping their patients find the perfect dose for their specific issues.

Conditions They Treat

Psychiatrists tend to focus on more intense mental disorders. Those include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. These mental health disorders tend to respond best to medical interventions such as medication, or even electroconvulsive therapy.  More recently, newer, less invasive procedures, such as ketamine (nasal/IV) and TMS (Transcranial magnetic stimulation) have also been developed to treat depression as well.

Psychologists can help with mental health issues that don't require medication. This includes depression, minor anxiety issues, and behavioral problems.

Should I See a Psychologist or Psychiatrist?

Whether you should seek a psychologist or psychiatrist depends upon the type of mental health issue you are experiencing.  Some people may even seek help from both at different times in their lives.

If your main concerns are about stressful situations in your life, a psychologist can work with you to process your thoughts and feelings. This kind of medical professional can teach you coping mechanisms and help you understand your feelings about life and situation.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can treat complicated mental health conditions with medications. Your psychiatrist can work closely with you over a long period of time to adjust medications, switch medications when one loses effectiveness, and monitor you for potential side effects.

Overall, it's essential to find a mental health professional who is attentive to your needs and available when you need assistance. If you're hoping to receive medical treatment for your mental health needs, a psychiatrist can offer personalized care and help you monitor medications. If you want to avoid medications, a psychologist may be a better fit.

Get Help from a Psychiatrist Boston Clinics Patients Can Trust

An experienced psychiatrist in Boston with whom patients can rely on will provide the best medication, general medical care, and therapy services for your needs. At Luminous Vitality Behavioral Health, we work with patients going through a variety of mental challenges.

Our licensed psychiatrist is passionate about diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. Dr. Ronald Lee provides support for a wide range of conditions, including autism, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

To schedule a convenient virtual appointment using video conferencing technology, you may visit our website or contact us at Luminous Vitality Behavioral Health today!

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