The Differences Between Therapists, Psychologists and Psychiatrists

When preparing to seek help from a mental health professional, it’s helpful to understand what your options are and to know which type of therapy is best for your unique and personal situation. In the mental health profession, there is a variety of titles an individual can hold. Three major ones include therapist, psychologist and psychiatrist. Here are the differences between them.


Education – Similar to a family doctor, a psychiatrist has a degree in medicine. They then specialize or focus in mental illness, emotional disorders and behavioral problems.

Focus – As a result of their medical training, a psychiatrist can also give insight into the physical effects associated with a mental health condition. If therapy is also recommended, they will typically refer you to a counselor or therapist rather than performing the therapy themselves.

Benefits to You – Due to their medical license, a psychiatrist is the one who can provide prescriptions for medication in extreme cases. They will also be able to help you with medication management.


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EducationPsychologists have a bachelor’s degree, followed by graduate studies in psychology, which is the study of human development, behaviors and learning.

Focus – Psychologists are generally specialized in assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions, emotional disorders and behavioral problems.

Benefits to You – Psychologists are beneficial to individuals living with a mental health condition because they help provide an understanding of the nature of that diagnosis and help to develop coping mechanisms for them. They can administer psychological tests, but usually not prescription medication.


EducationThe education therapists have can range quite significantly as they fall under a larger umbrella of professionals. In some cases, therapists can include psychiatrists and psychologists. They can also encompass counselors, social workers who provide therapy, life coaches and psychoanalysts.

Focus – Therapists focus on the overall emotional and mental well-being of their client.

Benefits to You – A therapist can help you make decisions, clarify and understand feelings, develop coping mechanisms and solve problems. They are available for support, encouragement and guidance. They often help an individual uncover patterns through history and behavior and develop day-to-day strategies for recovery.

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