How Do You Know Which Is Best For You, Psychologist Or Psychiatrist?

Did you know that 1 in 5 people adults suffer from mental health illness, but only 40% seek treatment. Those stats are nuts!

When I first started down my road to recovery I wasn't quite sure where to begin and where to look and who to consult. One of the biggest questions I wish I had had someone to guide me on, was whether seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist would be more appropriate for my situation.

The biggest difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is:



A psychologist?

A psychologist is an expert in providing psychosocial therapy aka talking therapy. They focus more on the patient's mind and emotions. They may use the DSM ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) to diagnose, however take note that they are not trained in general medicinal principles.

Psychologists have the professional training to help people cope with life issues and mental health problems. They are licensed to provide evaluations that may evaluate intellectual skills, cognitive strengths and weaknesses, personality traits, vocational aptitude and neuropsychological functioning.

Some people see psychologists because they feel depressed, angry, anxious, or because of a jarring situation like a toxic job, or the death of a family member. Others may see them to overcome addictions, manage chronic illnesses or make break troughs to help them reach their goals and be the best version of themself.

A psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is an expert at diagnosing mental disorders and managing medications, their expertise focuses on the chemical imbalances with the brain. They can write prescriptions. People normally see a psychiatrist after they are recommended to them through their psychologist or their primary care physician. However, that is not always the case. If you prefer to proceed directly to a psychiatrist for medication that option is available as well!

Please note that psychiatrists are medical doctors, they have an MD and went to medical school. Not only do they prescribe the right medication and the right dosage, they also have a strong understanding of how the physical and mental health affect each other. They may counsel you on prioritizing your sleep hygiene, eating properly, and setting a routine in place. They ask about changes in your personal life, work like, and how things are doing in general. Based on their assessment, they decide on whether to increase or reduce your dosage.

Common reasons you might see a psychiatrist maybe suicidal thoughts, obsessive thoughts, anxiety, depression, negative thoughts, poor concentration, memory problems, hallucinations, gambling, addictive habits, problems about body image, restlessness or insomnia. The medications normally used in psychiatry are broadly classified and listed below:

  • Antidepressants: For depression, anxiety, eating, and personality disorders

  • Antipsychotics: For schizophrenia and psychotic episodes

  • Anxiolytics: For anxiety disorders

  • Depressants: For episodic anxiety, insomnia, and panic

  • Mood Stabilizers: For Bi-polar disorder and schizoaffective disorder

  • Stimulants: For ADHD and narcolepsy

How they work together

Psychologists and psychiatrists work together to provide the best therapy for their patients. Psychologists usually see their patients on a weekly basis. It's important for them to stay closely in touch with their patients for the treatment to be effective. Psychiatrists may see their patients weekly or monthly depending on what the clinical needs of the patient are.

It is not always necessary to see them physically; video calls are becoming a more popular option nowadays due to our increasingly busy lives. Please remember that neither one is better than the other, both work as a team and help you grow and get past obstacles.

Whom Should You See?

For serious mental health issues, such as major depression, where symptoms are making life challenging, and make it incapable of taking basic care of yourself, it would be a better decision to see a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists have more formal training and more treatment options available.

For less serious mental health issues, or if you are averse to taking medication, seeing a psychologist will be the better path for you to take. Most people fear medication because they fear addiction or dependancy. However, if a psychologist is treating someone who has severe symptoms they may suggest a consultation with a psychiatrist to help clarify a diagnosis and possibly prescribe medications.

Your choice should be guided by the problem you are having.


I hope this article helps remove the fear of seeking help from a mental health professional. They are not scary which is how the movie industry portrays them. They are the most supportive people out there, and they are on your side! Whatever the issues, no matter how big or small, they are always ready to help and easily accessible.

Which expert do you feel is right for you? Which one will you go for? Leave me a note!

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