What’s the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist? It is sometimes difficult to navigate the many names “psy” of all kinds. Just like, It’s not always easy to know whether to consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Often confused in the label “psy”, these two professions are nevertheless different.
Without a doubt, it is not easy to find your way among the multitude of professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists…) who practice in this branch.
Yet knowing how to distinguish them is crucial. Indeed, not everyone has the same training, the same areas of expertise, or the same peculiarities. In addition, their role is very different.
Indeed, your mental health is too precious a thing to entrust to charlatans. Only two titles guarantee training recognized by the State: psychologist and psychiatrist. But, how do choose between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
I – Difference Between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist: Different Formations
1 – the Psychologist Has a University Degree
A psychologist holds a Master 2 (or a DESS) in Psychology. He did at least 5 years of study at the university. There are many specializations in psychology depending on the age group (child psychologist, a specialist in aging disorders …), a field of activity (psychologist, school psychologist …), etc.
The psychologist has therefore undergone university training in the field of the study of the great laws governing human behavior. The psychologist holds a Master 2 with an internship in clinical psychology.
The clinical psychologist can offer you therapeutic talks (supportive psychotherapy, cognitive psychotherapy), and various tests (personality, intelligence, etc.) but he will not be able to prescribe medications because he is not authorized to issue an order.
When psychotherapy is used, psychologists are often also trained in a form of psychotherapy (psychoanalysis, cognitive-behavioral therapies, systematic, etc.).
In France, the title of psychologist is protected and recognized by the State since 1985.
2 – the Psychiatrist Is a Doctor
The psychiatrist successfully passed the medical examination and, during his studies, turned to the study of psychiatric disorders. As the psychologist, he offers therapeutic talks, but he can prescribe medication (antidepressant, anxiolytic…). He issues a care sheet to be reimbursed by social security.
A psychiatrist is a doctor who has a specialization in Psychiatry. He did a general medical course for 6 years then 4 years of specialization in psychiatry.
Compared to a general practitioner, the doctor-psychiatrist is therefore specially trained to establish a diagnosis and prescribe psychotropic drugs (antidepressants, anxiolytics, neuroleptics, sleeping pills, etc.)
Psychiatry as a discipline was formed in France during the 19th century when it separated from neurology with the school of Charcot at Pitié-Salpêtrière.
II – Difference Between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist: Different Professions
As we have already said, the psychiatrist is a doctor, who has done a specialty while the psychologist has studied psychology. The psychiatrist may prescribe psychotropic medication which is important in the follow-up of serious disorders. Conversely, the psychologist uses psychotherapy to help his patients, which is not the case for all psychiatrists.
1 – The Psychiatrist
The best-known professional, the psychiatrist brings you the guarantee of solid training (at least ten years of study), and a very strictly supervised exercise. His training lasts 4 years, in addition to the 6 years of common core in medicine, during which he is full-time in the hospital. As a result, he has a minimum of 4 years of practical clinical training with patients. (Baccalaureate + 10, in France).
The psychiatrist is a physician first and foremost: He intervenes in the first line and can, therefore, unravel psychological problems, and symptoms that suggest a physical illness. He makes the psychiatric diagnosis.
Subsequently, his role is to organize the care and conduct the care (drugs, psychotherapy). He may also choose to delegate certain care to a social worker, a psychologist, and so on.
In addition to general psychotherapeutic skills, he may specialize in family therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), or psychoanalysis.
Then he is bound by a code of ethics, the application of which is guaranteed by a Council of the Order.
Its qualification is guaranteed and it has two advantages:
– firstly, he is authorized to prescribe any medicine.
– secondly, he can issue you a care sheet for care (if agreed) by the social security and mutual.
2 – The Psychologist
Another professional with a university education, the psychologist guarantees you listening skills and therapy.
Once the psychiatrist has been diagnosed by the psychiatrist, if the psychiatrist does not do psychotherapy, he can do it. His care can also go through tests allowing him to make a psychological diagnosis. On the other hand, not being a doctor, he does not make any prescriptions and cannot issue a care sheet. In addition to a general psychotherapeutic skill, he may have an over-specialization in family therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, or psychoanalysis.
We must distinguish between clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists, and occupational psychologists.
Clinical psychologists are primarily those who will be involved in mental health care. Their training is Master 2 (Baccalaureate +5). It is primarily theoretical because the time spent in practical training with the patient is small in volume hourly. Thus, there is generally no internship before the 3rd year of license. Nanterre (France) asks for example 70 hours of observation internship to validate the license. It takes then 300 hours of internship to validate the master 2 which corresponds to 45 days in full-time equivalent. On the other hand, they are very competent in the use and passing of psychological tests.
III – Common Points and Differences Between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist
Note that by right, the clinical psychologist and the psychiatrist can be said respectively: Psychologist-psychotherapist or Psychiatrist-psychotherapist (cf decree of May 7, 2012, France).
BUT: unlike the doctor, the psychologist has no systematic training to recognize the intrications of physical and psychic diseases. He cannot detect or treat them, unlike the psychiatrist who is a doctor.
The psychologist cannot make a psychiatric diagnosis. He can follow a code of ethics if he adheres to an organization that submits to an ethical code but does not have a Council of the Order to guarantee the application.
Clinical and practical training is much more developed for the psychiatrist than for the psychologist.
In the following lines, you will have more details on the trades and qualifications related to psychologists and/or psychiatrists. This section is there to help you see more clearly among the “psy” and know what you can expect from each of them. Our advice: well inform yourself and ask your interlocutor if he is a psychologist or psychiatrist. In addition, for an analyst, specify what type of theory he is referring to. To summarize, the best is to choose a professional whose training is well codified (in France), the pledge of quality and efficiency.
We will share this section in several parts:
– qualified practitioners with recognized training
– qualified professionals with special training
– professionals whose qualification is more nebulous …
IV – Skilled Professionals with Special Training:
These are professionals who have followed a specific psychotherapeutic specialization. However, these quality courses are usually taught by schools or learned societies, not universities. It is therefore very easy to follow one of these formations and to consider that one is competent … whereas it is not the case.
Our advice is as follows:
If the professional is a psychiatrist or psychologist, the fact that he practices psychotherapy is an advantage: it means that in addition to university education, he is specifically trained in psychotherapy.
If the professional does not specify a title of psychiatrist or psychologist, saying simply “analyst” or “systemic” or “cognitivist”, beware… It is that he cannot claim any recognized title and only non-regulated security without a guarantee of minimum competence.
1 – IPTist
This is a professional practicing interpersonal therapy (IPT). It can intervene in all types of problems. In addition, he is almost always a psychiatrist or psychologist (a prerequisite to enroll in certain training cycles, as IFTIP: the case of France). TIP is an over-specialization.
2 – Psychoanalyst / Analyst
This therapist is not necessarily a psychiatrist or psychologist. However, it benefits from a training codified by Societies Savant Psychoanalysis, whose contents vary according to the trends, which guarantees a consistent theoretical basis. Analysts have a great diversity of exercises according to the theory that it puts into practice (Lacanian, Jungian, Freudian, etc …)
*** The psychoanalyst, a couch without control
It is a person who uses the method of investigation of psychic processes invented by Sigmund Freud. The patient is lying on a couch, back to the psychoanalyst. Attention: anyone can declare himself a psychoanalyst overnight. It is therefore important to verify that the psychoanalyst you are going to consult is also either a psychologist or a psychiatrist or, at least, affiliated to a recognized psychoanalytic society.
3 – Behaviorist / Cognitivist / Cognitive Behaviorist
Professional exercising a particular type of psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It can intervene in all types of problems. He is almost always a psychiatrist or psychologist (a pre-requisite for enrollment in certain training cycles, as at AFTCC in France). CBT is an over-specialization.
4 – Family Therapist / Systemic
Professional exercising a particular type of psychotherapy called systemic therapy or family therapy. This therapy is particularly adapted to the problems encountered in children. He is almost always a psychiatrist or psychologist. Family therapy is an over-specialization.
V – Professionals Whose Qualification Is More Nebulous:
1 – Therapist / Psychotherapist
This denomination is the least clear. Theoretically, it refers to all professionals capable of performing psychotherapy. Until recently, however, the conditions governing the right to use this title were unclear. As a result, many people have been able to use this title without benefiting from recognized training.
In France, since May 22, 2010, the decree implementing the law on the use of the title of the psychotherapist is published in the Official Journal; in paragraph 24.
It defines very clearly the conditions of application of the law and the conditions of accession to this title. Only psychiatrists and clinical psychologists are full holders of the title of a psychotherapist, all others must attest to training as defined in the decree.
This decree is excellent news for the mental health care professionals as it will finally provide the transparency that was not yet in place.
However, let us be realistic, the delay between the publication of this decree and its concrete application (with the necessary regularization) will still be very long. In addition, some unscrupulous professionals may not remove the title of “psychotherapist” from their placard even if they are not legitimately justified in using it. Finally, there is a clause in this decree, known as the grandfather’s clause, which grants the title of a psychotherapist to any person who has practiced as a psychotherapist for 5 years, without verification of his training or competence.
*** The following tips are still relevant:
For a professional who can claim a recognized theoretical background, such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist, and who adds “psychotherapist” in this respect: no problem (on the contrary!).
On the other hand, in the case of a professional who is called a “psychotherapist” without more details: mistrust, take his information. We strongly advise against it. To help you, an association exists (Psychotherapies Vigilance). The psychotherapist must be able to prove to you where the title of psychotherapist comes from: you can ask him! In addition, a list is established by the ARS (Regional Agency of Health). It is highly recommended to see a psychotherapist or psychologist.
– Psychiatrist-psychotherapist = YES
– Psychologist-psychotherapist = YES
– Psychotherapist without another title = NO
2 – Coach / Therapeutic Coach
This professional intervenes to improve the patient’s performance in a well-defined area. The problem is that there is no well-codified training to assign this title. Many use it without valid theoretical support. To learn more about coaching, we suggest you visit the dedicated page.
There are several types of coaching:
– individual or company coaching
– group coaching
– analysis and audit of a situation
Coaching is widely used in business and also very fashionable as an individual. His contributions are very important and beneficial when the coach is competent. Many coaching structures are flourishing … so how to find your bearings?
As the coaching title is not protected by any decree, anyone can call themselves a coach.
Therefore, here again, mistrust. If you choose a coach, the most prudent is to choose one who has training (with a diploma) in the care: a psychiatrist, psychologist, or state-certified nurse. This caution will give you a guarantee of quality.
3 – Other Denominations
Our advice: be wary as a rule of all “therapists” who can not avail themselves of a clearly recognized title. Generally, when we have titles, we put them forward, so if we do not put it on its plate, it means that we do not have…
Similarly, beware of all “titles” whose names are not clear. Inquire first, because many denominations do not guarantee any particular training.
Examples of terms that do not correspond to any solidly recognized training:
– Psychotherapist: ambiguous because recalls the term hospital practitioner doctor. But psychotherapist is not a doctor.
– Fasciatherapist and fasciapulsologist: unconventional manual therapy. Efficacy unproven. Not to be confused with chiropractic and osteopathy, whose titles are recognized in France.
– Energy therapist.
These terms include unrecognized exercises whose efficacy (other than placebo) is not scientifically proven. If the term is not clear, beware!!
VI – Recognized Professionals Not Performing Psychotherapy:
1 – Psychomotor
This professional enjoys a university education governed by the state. It intervenes in the framework of balance sheets and care relating to the psychic and the body. He does not provide any psychotherapy and intervenes in medical prescriptions. Do not be fooled by the “psychic” of the first syllable!
Conclusion: Psychiatrist and Psychologist, Different Indications
Psychiatrists advocated when:
– You have a serious disorder (psychosis, bipolar disorder, etc.)
-You need medication monitoring
– You do not want to do psychotherapies
Psychologists, recommended when:
– You want to do psychotherapyWhat’s the Difference Between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?
– You do not want to wait too long
– You wish to choose (the orientation, the professional, etc.)