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What is the difference between a mental health counselor and a psychiatrist?

I am a senior student at Brennan high school and am interested in being a psychiatrist. I often get confused between the two careers and was wondering what major differences they have from each other. #psychology #psychiatry #counseling #premed

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Saumya’s Answer

Updated Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

What Type of Care Does a Therapist Provide?

A therapist has a wide range of expertise in providing therapy to improve the life and mental well-being of their clients. Anyone who provides mental health care to others using a therapeutic approach and is licensed to practice is considered a therapist. Therapists can be social workers, counselors, or clinicians. A therapist may specialize in psychotherapy, talk therapy, or use a combination of different approaches and techniques for providing mental health care for clients.

Therapists are licensed but the requirements for the licensing depends on where they are working. Some therapists focus on specific mental disorders, while others specialize in a specific type of therapy such as child therapy, group therapy, marriage and family therapy, or individual therapy.


What Type of Care Does a Psychiatrist Provide?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor of psychiatry. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications used to treat specific mental disorders as defined in the DSM-V. The DSM-V is a diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders that is used to diagnose mental disorders. Psychiatrists use a scientific approach to understanding psychiatric conditions such as depression or schizophrenia, and can prescribe medication to help deal with the condition.

Psychiatry is a specialized field of medicine. A psychiatrist can treat mental disorders that may not respond to counseling. Some mental health issues improve with therapy but they may also require specific medications for the best outcomes as well. A psychiatrist will interview patients and prescribe medications based on their diagnosis. Medications are closely monitored and can be adjusted as a client moves through therapy. Most often, a psychiatrist will want a client to be in therapy as well as be on medication, as opposed to just using medication as a treatment option.


Understanding the Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychiatrist

The main difference between a therapist and psychiatrist is a medical degree in psychiatry. A psychiatrist is licensed to prescribe medications for mental disorders whereas a therapist does not have that ability. Psychiatrists use the DSM-V to diagnose patients by studying and researching the symptoms. Once a diagnosis is achieved, the psychiatrist's patients may now seek a therapist to help them cope and achieve progress.

Most therapists have a degree and are licensed to practice therapy professionally but they do not have the same specialized degree that psychiatrists have. Any licensed mental health care provider that delivers therapy to a patient is considered a therapist, but only a doctor of psychiatry can prescribe medication and therapy.

Some therapists specialize in specific areas of the mental health field. Psychotherapy, behavior modification, and exposure therapy are just a few of the specialized therapies provided by therapists. Many times, a psychiatrist will recommend therapy with a licensed professional after they diagnose and prescribe medication if it is needed.

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Saumya recommends the following next steps:

  • Go through https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/understanding-the-difference-between-a-therapist-and-psychiatrist/