Psychiatrists vs Therapists: Differences and Similarities Between the Two

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a therapist and a psychiatrist? Or wondered why you would even want to see a psychiatrist in the first place? To begin with psychiatrists and therapists play fairly different roles when it comes to helping people feel better about their lives. So, it can pay to know a little bit about what sets them apart and what the similarities are.

When you’re in need of mental health services, you may find that there are two very similar terms thrown around: psychiatrists and therapists. While the names are somewhat self-explanatory—the first is a medical doctor who specializes in psychiatry, and the second is a therapist who treats patients for emotional, behavioural, or relationship issues—there are many differences between them. In this guide, we’ll explore these differences as well as what makes these professionals’ roles similar.

Who Is a Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. They have a medical degree (usually MD or DO) and have completed a psychiatric residency. As such, they are licensed to prescribe medication, including the powerful mood stabilizers lithium and anticonvulsants like valproate to treat bipolar disorder.

Since psychiatrists can see patients in an office setting, they tend to be more accessible than therapists—especially for those with access to private insurance coverage that covers visits with physicians outside of urgent care settings or community health centres.

Interesting: Why Are Psychiatrists Called Shrinks?

Who Is a Therapist?

A therapist is a mental health professional. Therapists can help patients with a variety of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety as well as behavioural problems like substance abuse and addiction. They use a range of different treatment methods, including talk therapy (sometimes called “psychotherapy”) to treat their patients.

Therapists should be licensed by the state in which they practice. The licensing process varies from state to state but generally involves passing an examination given by the state board of psychology or some other governing body; training at a graduate level for several years under supervision; practicing under supervision for a certain period of time before being allowed full licensure; and completing continuing education requirements each year after receiving your license so that you’re staying on top of new developments in your field.


The main difference between psychiatrists and therapists is that psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication, while therapists have no such authority. However, not all psychiatrists are medical doctors; some are licensed as psychologists or even social workers. Because of this, it’s important to look at the “Doctor” designation in a doctor’s title closely before deciding whether they should be your go-to for mental health care.

Therapists do not need any medical training whatsoever—they can just be someone with a degree in psychology or counselling—meaning that you don’t need an MD after their name to see them!

More Reading: 5 Reasons Why Online Therapy Has Helped So Many People

They Have Different Education Backgrounds

In order to practice as a psychiatrist, you must be a medical doctor. This means that psychiatrists have completed at least four years of undergraduate school and 4 years of medical school. After completing their degree, they must then complete their residency program and pass their board exams before they can practice independently.

Psychologists, on the other hand, don’t need any advanced degrees to practice psychotherapy. While many choose to pursue a Ph.D., it’s not technically mandatory for licensure in most states; however, some states require an additional 5 years or more of clinical experience before someone can sit for the exam required for licensure as a psychologist.

They May Do Different Things During a Session

Both a psychiatrist and a therapist have the same goal: to help people cope with their mental health. But the way they go about achieving this is different.

Therapists use a variety of techniques that may or may not include talk therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. They also use art therapy and play therapy as well as music therapy to help clients find ways to express themselves through artistic means or through play activities that encourage creativity and self-expression.

Psychiatrists are trained in medication management for mental disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may prescribe medications such as antidepressants or antipsychotics based on what treatment plan has been developed by both parties after talking about your symptoms during an initial consultation visit.

Must See: How To Get Certified In Substance Abuse Counseling

Psychiatrists Can Prescribe Medication

While psychiatrists can prescribe medication, therapists cannot. If you have an issue that requires medication, like depression or anxiety, but aren’t interested in seeing a psychiatrist because you don’t want to take medication or are uncomfortable with the idea of being on it for a long period of time, then seeing a therapist can be beneficial because she’ll probably refer you to one anyway. If you are comfortable taking medication and think your therapy will only help so much (or not at all), then seeing both might be worth it!

Therapists See a Client in An Office or Other Location That Is Away from The Busyness of Everyday Life.

While some therapists travel to their clients’ homes, most work in offices where they have a desk, a comfortable chair for the patient, and possibly some toys and art supplies for children. Therapists may also have bookshelves filled with books on topics relevant to their practice.

You can usually tell if someone is a therapist by looking at the sign on their door or window (if they have one). If you’re visiting someone new, call ahead to make sure they are available when you need them before going there.

Psychiatrists can only see patients in a medical office setting, because they must be available to review lab results and meet with pharmaceutical representatives in person, if need be. According to The American Psychiatric Association (APA), psychiatrists can only see patients in a medical office setting. Additionally, the APA requires that psychiatrists have access to medical equipment and labs for testing purposes.

See This: Tips to Manage Your Mental Health

There are numerous types of mental health professionals who provide therapy services outside of a traditional medical office setting: psychologists, counsellors/social workers, marriage and family therapists (MFTs), licensed professional counsellors (LPCs), licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) and certified clinical mental health counsellors (CCMHPs).


  • Both psychiatrists and therapists are trained to help people with mental health issues.
  • Both use talk therapy to treat their patients.
  • Both must be licensed professionals in order to practice as a psychiatrist or therapist.
  • And both can prescribe medication if it’s deemed necessary by the patient’s condition, though therapists may not always do so.
  • Both have similar goals – Both psychiatrists and therapists want to help you live a better life, feel better about yourself, feel better about the world, and be more hopeful for your future. What makes them different is their training.
  • They both use talk therapy to help patients. – Both psychiatrists and therapists use talk therapy to help patients overcome their mental health issues.

Talk therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on verbal communication between a therapist and a patient. In this type of therapy, you talk about your feelings with the help of your therapist to address problems. The therapist may ask questions or make suggestions to you so that they can help you find solutions for your issues.

Knowing the differences and similarities between psychiatrists and therapists can help you decide which one is right for you. Therapists and psychiatrists are both trained to help people, but their education and training is different. The similarities and differences between therapists and psychiatrists will help decide which one is right for you.

Stay Sane:  Mental Health vs. Behavioral Health: How Are They Similar and Different?

In general therapy involves talking with a therapist to determine what’s causing problems in your life and then working together to come up with solutions. For example, if you’re having difficulties with your relationships at home or work then a therapist will help guide you through identifying the root cause of those problems. They may also teach techniques for communicating more effectively or offer suggestions on how to improve your situation by making changes in your lifestyle such as eating healthier.

Psychiatrists differ from therapists because they specialize solely in mental health care while therapists specialize in many types of talk therapy including family therapy, couples counselling etc.). However, both types of professionals use talk therapy as part of their practice so it isn’t always easy distinguishing between one type vs another when looking through ads online.


People often get confused between the two professions — psychiatrists and therapists. Both of them deal with mental illness and help patients improve their lives. However, there are many differences between the two professions which we have explained in this article.

We hope that by now, you’ve learned more about the similarities and differences between a psychiatrist and a therapist. We also hope we’ve helped you think about what type of mental health professional would be best for you. The most important thing to remember is that both psychiatrists and therapists are here to help you when you need it. If one type of provider doesn’t seem like a good fit, don’t worry! There are many different providers out there, including other types of prescribers if medication is what you need.

More Mental Health: Good Mental Health vs. Bad Mental Health: An Overview

Dave P
Dave P
Be a little better today than yesterday.
Stay Connected

Read On