Mental Health Checkup: Psychologist vs Psychiatrist
Whenever one’s mental health is disturbed and medical advice is required, the two professionals that come to mind are Psychologists and Psychiatrists. However, since their area of work, technique and methodology of practice are so similar, it can be very confusing to choose the one best suited to one’s needs. They might appear to be the same but have a different role to play in the treatment of mental disorders.
Psychologists are mental health professionals that deal with conditions requiring therapy-based treatment. Most psychologists do not prescribe medications. So, in conditions such as mild panic attacks, anxiety, acute depressions, drug abuse etc. that cause behavioural, mental, emotional, communicative, cognitive problems, patients often seek their help.
Clinical Psychologists have a Masters in Psychology that also includes internship and specialised clinical training as part of their course curriculum
Talk therapy or counselling is the most common mode of treatment a psychologist uses. Through counselling, they gain an insight into the depth or cause of the turmoil the patient is experiencing and also, help them come out of it through therapy-based techniques such as psychotherapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, relaxation therapy etc. The counselling sessions could be single or multiple, one-to-one or group sessions. The family members of the patient may also, be counselled to have better outcomes.
For children with behavioural, cognitive or communication disturbances or children facing academic difficulties, psychologists play a major role as they can treat the kids with ‘play therapy’ that helps in understanding the child more and gives the kids a comfortable and safe environment to express themselves.
A psychologist can also, perform psychological tests such as personality tests, IQ tests etc.
Psychiatrists, on the other hand, are certified medical doctors having an MD (Doctor of Medicine) degree and have the authority to prescribe medications for the mental disorders. Thus, patients with more complex or chronic mental conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, chronic depression, Alzheimer’s etc consult a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist can also, provide therapy-based treatments such as Electroconvulsive (shock) therapy, Light therapy etc.
Psychiatrists perform a comprehensive examination of the mental health of the patient by means of diagnostic tools such as psychological or lab tests and prescribe medicines accordingly.
In most cases especially that of depression and anxiety, psychologists and psychiatrists work hand-in-hand wherein the psychiatrist prescribes antidepressants, sedatives or other antipsychotic medications while the psychologist provides the necessary counselling or therapy sessions.
Both the psychiatrists and psychologists form an integral part of a system to address the mental health issues.