Erin D. Prince, MD
Patient-centered mental health care to children, adolescents, young adults, and families via a conscientious approach. 
Now Trending:
The First Post Title Goes Here
Why I don't believe in affiliate marketing
Travel the world on fifteen damn dollars
Explore Our Mental Health Services
Comprehensive psychiatric evaluations and medication management visits with psychotherapy.

What’s the Difference between a Psychiatrist vs Psychologist?

June 27, 2023

While both professionals focus on the well-being and treatment of individuals experiencing mental health challenges, there are several key differences between them, including their qualifications, treatment approaches, and areas of expertise. Here’s a breakdown of the main distinctions:


  • Qualifications: A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) who specializes in mental health and holds a medical degree. They have completed medical school, followed by a residency in psychiatry. If specialized, they have completed additional training (fellowship) and have expertise in disciplines such as Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, or Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.
  • Medical approach: Psychiatrists are trained in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders using a medical and biological approach. They are authorized to prescribe medication, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers to manage mental health conditions.
  • Treatment focus: Psychiatrists assess the physical, biological, and psychosocial factors contributing to mental disorders, including brain chemistry and genetics. They often utilize medication management as part of the treatment plan and are equipped to provide psychotherapy. Psychiatrist often refer patients to psychologists for therapy, but also frequently provide psychotherapy as part of the treatment plan.
  • Conditions treated: Psychiatrists commonly treat severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and other psychiatric disorders that may require and benefit from pharmacological intervention.
  • Collaborative approach: Psychiatrists often work collaboratively with other mental health professionals, such as psychologists, counselors, and social workers, to provide comprehensive care.


  • Qualifications: Psychologists hold a doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.) in psychology. They have completed graduate-level education and extensive supervised clinical training in psychology. Some psychologists also have additional specialized training or certifications.
  • Talk therapy focus: Psychologists primarily specialize in psychotherapy (also known as “talk therapy”) and utilize various therapeutic techniques to help individuals address psychological and emotional challenges. They do not prescribe medication.
  • Treatment focus: Psychologists focus on understanding the human mind, behavior, and emotions. They utilize evidence-based therapeutic approaches to help individuals overcome psychological issues, improve mental health, and develop coping strategies.
  • Conditions treated: Psychologists provide therapy for a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, relationship problems, trauma, addiction, eating disorders, and other emotional and behavioral difficulties.
  • Assessment and testing: Psychologists are trained in conducting psychological assessments and tests to evaluate cognitive abilities, personality traits, and diagnose specific conditions, such as learning disabilities and/or ADHD.
  • Research and academia: Many psychologists are actively involved in research, academia, and teaching, contributing to the scientific understanding of human behavior and mental processes.

Is a therapist the same as a Psychologist, Counselor, etc?

The term “therapist” can be used as a catchall referring to a psychotherapist, psychologist, counselor, or other licensed mental health professional who provides psychotherapy to improve the emotional, mental health, and well-being of their clients. In certain parts of the country, “counselor” is used more commonly than “therapist” (and vice versa). Using one term versus another, ultimately boils down to a matter of preference. It is important to note, however, that a Psychologist typically holds a doctoral degree and has a background in academia and research. They may or may not work with clients providing therapy, some prefer to focus solely on research.

There can be overlap and collaboration between psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists. In some cases, individuals may benefit from a combination of medication management from a psychiatrist and therapy from a psychologist to address their mental health needs. The choice between seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist ultimately depends on the individual’s specific circumstances, the nature of their concerns, and their preferences for treatment approaches. Consulting with a primary care physician or seeking a referral from a mental health clinic can help determine the most appropriate professional to address one’s mental health concerns.