What’s the Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychiatrist? [Comparison]
When you’re ready to enter drug rehab, there are a lot of new decisions to make, including picking a psychiatrist vs a therapist. That depends on many factors, including what drugs you are misusing, whether you will need detox and if treatment is inpatient or outpatient. You may be asking yourself some of the following: what is the difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist? Does rehab require psychiatric care or therapy? Do you need a psychiatrist or therapist?
Here you’ll learn about a psychiatrist vs a therapist, the difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist, and how to select a therapist or psychiatrist. Regardless of which specialist you need, making sure they are the right providers for you as you move into recovery is critical. Our addiction experts at Better Help Addiction Care can provide you with more information on whether you need a therapist, psychiatrist, or both. Call us today at 385-327-7418.
Keep reading below for more information about the difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist.
What a Psychiatrist Does
In the conversation surrounding psychiatrist vs therapist, it’s important to know how each profession operates. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health, including substance use disorders. Psychiatrists assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems.
As physicians, psychiatrists can order or perform a full range of medical laboratory and psychological tests. When combined with discussions with patients, this provides a full picture of a person’s physical and mental state.
Specific diagnoses are based on the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The manual contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders.
Most psychiatrists prescribe medications, just as another doctor might do to treat chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. Psychiatric medications help correct imbalances in brain chemistry that are thought to be involved in some mental disorders.
Psychiatrists prescribe the following categories of medications:
- Antidepressants for depression, panic disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more.
- Antipsychotic medications for psychotic symptoms, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
- Sedatives and anxiolytics for anxiety and insomnia.
- Hypnotics to induce and maintain sleep.
- Mood stabilizers to treat bipolar disorder.
- Stimulants to treat ADHD.
They also use psychotherapy, sometimes called talk therapy. It is a treatment that involves a talking relationship between a therapist and patient. The treatment can be used to treat a broad variety of mental disorders and emotional difficulties.
The goal of psychotherapy is to eliminate or control disabling symptoms. Depending on the extent of the problem, treatment may take just a few sessions or many sessions over years. Psychotherapy can be done individually, as a couple, with a family, or in a group.
There are many forms of psychotherapy and they are tailored to help solve problems in specific ways. Some help patients change behaviors or thought patterns. Others help patients explore the effects of past experiences on present behaviors.
What a Therapist Does
So how do we define therapist vs psychiatrist? Practicing psychologists, also called therapists, have professional training and clinical skills to help people cope with life issues and mental health problems Therapists can treat many kinds of problems, including overcoming addictions. However, in many states, they are not allowed to prescribe medications.
Psychologists help by using a variety of techniques based on the best available research. They also consider someone’s unique values, characteristics, goals, and circumstances.
Some people may talk to a psychologist because they have felt depressed, angry, or anxious for a long time. Or, they may want help for a chronic condition that is interfering with their lives or physical health. Contact us today if you would like further assistance and support with addiction. We will be able to give you the tools necessary to be successful.
Psychologists can conduct tests and assessments to diagnose a condition or tell more about the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. These tests may evaluate intellectual skills, cognitive strengths and weaknesses, personality characteristics, and neuropsychological functioning.
Types of Therapy
Most commonly, therapists use psychotherapy or talk therapy. There are many different styles of therapy, but the psychologist will work with the individual to identify the best approach.
Some other common types of therapy are cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, humanistic, psychodynamic, or a combination of styles. Therapy can be for an individual, couples, or families.
A number of psychologists are also trained to use hypnosis. Research has found hypnosis to be effective for a wide range of conditions including pain, anxiety, and mood disorders.
For some conditions, therapy is most effective when combined with medication. For people who benefit from medication, psychologists work with primary care physicians, pediatricians, and psychiatrists on their overall treatment.
The American Psychological Association estimates that there are about 106,000 licensed psychologists in the United States.
Many practicing psychologists manage their own private practice. They can also be found in schools, hospitals, veterans’ medical centers, community health clinics, nursing homes, and rehabilitation and long-term care centers.
The Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychiatrist
With the above knowledge in hand, let’s compare psychiatry vs therapy. Both psychiatrists and therapists are trained in the field of psychology. But they have different education and training backgrounds.
To become a psychiatrist, a person must complete medical school and take a written examination for a state license to practice medicine. Then, they must complete a four-year psychiatry residency.
The first year of residency training is typically in a hospital working with patients with a wide range of medical illnesses. The psychiatrist-in-training then spends at least three additional years learning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health.
After completing residency training, most psychiatrists take a voluntary written and oral examination given by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to become a “board-certified” psychiatrist. They must be re-certified every 10 years.
A therapist requires a doctoral degree to practice psychology. This entails at least four to six years of full-time study after completing an undergraduate degree. They also receive specific training in psychological assessment and therapy.
While in graduate school, psychology students may also participate in research and teaching. A one-year, full-time supervised internship is required prior to graduation. And in most states, an additional year of supervised practice is required before licensure. Psychologists must pass a national examination and additional exams specific to the state in which they are being licensed.
Once licensed to practice, therapists have to keep up their knowledge. They earn several hours of continuing education credits each year, as required by their state’s license and regulations board.
Generally, only psychiatrists with medical school training can prescribe medication. However, five states, New Mexico, Louisiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Idaho, allow licensed psychologists to prescribe from a list of medications designed to treat mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
In the states where psychologists are allowed to prescribe medication, the therapist must have advanced training after they are licensed. Specific education guidelines vary by state, but they must complete a specialized training program or earn a master’s degree in psychopharmacology.
Psychiatrist vs Therapist For Addiction Treatment
You have made the decision to begin recovering from substance use disorder. Now you may be wondering whether a psychiatrist or therapist is right for you.
Your addiction specialist will help you figure out the best treatment options for you. There are many options that have been successful in treating drug addiction, including:
- behavioral counseling
- medical devices and applications used to treat withdrawal symptoms or deliver skills training
- evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
- long-term follow-up to prevent relapse
Some of these treatments require a psychiatrist, while therapists are appropriate for others. Outpatient behavioral treatment includes a wide variety of programs for patients who visit a behavioral health counselor or therapist on a regular schedule. Most of the programs involve individual or group drug counseling, or both.
Inpatient or residential treatment can also be very effective. This is especially true for those with more severe problems including co-occurring disorders. Licensed residential treatment facilities offer 24-hour structured and intensive care, including medical attention. Residential treatment facilities may use a variety of therapeutic approaches that require the expertise of a psychiatrist.
Role of Psychiatrists in Rehab
Psychiatrists play a key role in medically-assisted treatment. This is because they are the type of addiction specialists that can write prescriptions for medication.
If your treatment requires medication, a psychiatrist would need to prescribe it. But you may have therapists for different aspects of treatment such as individual therapy and group sessions. Most treatment centers use treatment teams, as opposed to a single provider, in order to give a more comprehensive treatment.
Please reach out to our trained professionals today if you would like to know more about getting into rehab. We will be able to provide you the assistance you need to start your healthy journey.
Choosing a Psychiatrist
A psychiatrist will try to gain an intimate knowledge of your mind, which is what makes selecting the right psychiatrist so important. Here are some tips on finding the right psychiatrist for you.
Start with a referral list of potential psychiatrists from your primary care doctor, health care clinic, or insurance company. Narrow down your list, call each psychiatrist’s office and make an appointment to meet and interview the doctor.
Board certification is an important factor when choosing a psychiatrist. It tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills, and experience to provide psychiatric care. Also, you will want to confirm that the psychiatrist has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions.
When it comes to mental health issues, experience makes all the difference. The more experience a psychiatrist has with a condition or procedure, the better your results are likely to be.
If you have a mental health disorder, you may start seeing a psychiatrist when you are at your most vulnerable. Therefore, it’s important to feel comfortable with your psychiatrist’s gender. When it comes to mental health, your own gender is also an important consideration.
Because of COVID-19, health care providers are increasingly diagnosing and treating patients using telehealth. Telehealth is especially useful for routine follow-ups and medication checks.
Choose a psychiatrist you are comfortable talking to and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the psychiatrist, ask a question. Notice how he or she responds. And always trust your instincts.
To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a psychiatrist who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials and outcomes as you select a psychiatrist from your plan.
Choosing a Therapist
Picking the right therapist for you is just as important as selecting the right psychiatrist. Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D., has these tips for choosing a therapist.
Clarify the issue
Ask yourself questions such as:
- What is the problem I am struggling with?
- How does it show itself in my emotions, thoughts and behaviors?
- How is it impacting the different domains of my life?
Define your goal
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I want to be different?
- How do I want my life to be different?
- What would therapeutic success look like for me?
If you have insurance that requires you to choose someone in-network, begin by getting a list of in-network therapists in your area. Once you have the list, you might ask your physician whether they can recommend anyone on the list.
If paying out-of-pocket, you can use out-of-network therapists. Begin your search by asking for a recommendation from family, friends or your physician.
Once you have the names of some therapists, determine whether they have the necessary experience. Check out their website, if they have one, and speak with them on the phone.
Ask questions such as:
- Are you licensed?
- How long have you been practicing for?
- What is your area of specialty?
- Do you have experience treating the type of issue I need help with?
- What approach would you use with my situation?
Find a good fit
After deciding on a therapist, schedule an initial appointment. The therapist can gain a better understanding of your problem and how to help you. Meanwhile, you can assess whether you trust and connect with the therapist.
To get more information on whether you need a therapist, psychiatrist or both to help with your addiction, contact Better Help Addiction Care today at the number below. We look forward to helping you find the care you need.
Written by Janet Perez
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