What are the differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? As singular as these practices may be, this question remains very common and shows that many confusions still exist. This article aims to explain the specificities of these disciplines so that you can choose the meeting that best suits your needs.

The psychologist

He is present in many sectors of activity, whether in companies, in private practice or in institutions (private/public hospitals or specialised centres). After a minimum of 5 years of university training, he or she is trained in the analysis and understanding of human psychic functioning. His or her diploma is issued by the University of Human Sciences and is therefore protected by law. The psychologist’s objective is to detect behavioural disorders and adjustment problems and to study ways of treating them.

Each psychologist has a specialisation that specifies his or her skills and guides his or her practice. Some specialise in working with people with mental health problems, while others specialise in work and organisational psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, etc. They may also specialise in complementary techniques such as systemic psychology, cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy, psychoanalysis and many others (there are over 400 different psychotherapies).

What is the role of a psychologist?

  • It helps you to understand and solve situations that generate psychological difficulties

In the course of his practice, he may receive both young people and adults. The role of the psychologist is to intervene to help improve a problem situation. The psychologist’s ability to listen attentively and the techniques he or she uses will enable you to rediscover the well-being and quality of life to which you aspire. It is not impossible that the psychologist will suggest that you take a series of tests to guide his or her practice. You can find out how a session with a psychologist works.

  • It helps you when you are going through difficulties

Relational (whether it is a break-up or separation, marital problems, a need to clarify a situation, etc.), professional (reorientation, lack of fulfilment at work, feeling of failure). You can also consult him when you suffer from physical symptoms (sleep disorders, fatigue, stress-related contractures, etc.), depression, emotional shock (trauma) or a lack of confidence/self-esteem. Her work is aimed at minimising your suffering, managing your difficulties and finding solutions to particular problems.

The psychologist is not a doctor

As he is not a doctor (unlike a psychiatrist), he cannot prescribe medication under any circumstances. However, according to his techniques, he can suggest prescriptions for tasks that consist in maintaining and developing the therapeutic work carried out during your sessions. The objectives defined during the interview and the nature of the therapeutic relationship guide the psychologist in developing this. The task prescription is attractive because of the playful and stimulating aspect it offers. The psychologist ensures that tasks are designed specifically for you in order to release your resources and bring about change.

It is possible that your mutual insurance company may cover certain costs. Before making an appointment, take the time to contact your mutual insurance company to make sure.

The psychiatrist

It is a doctor who specialises in mental health. Psychiatry is a sub-discipline of medicine that aims to diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders. These mental illnesses can be caused by a major alteration in personality. People suffering from these disorders are usually unable to live independently and/or in society and may put themselves in danger (mostly involuntarily).

After 10 years of study, the psychiatrist can start practising. The psychiatrist can work in a private practice in a hospital, in a public/private institution or as a freelance. Like psychologists, they can also specialise in specific methods of psychotherapy: family therapy, psychoanalysis, cognitive and behavioural therapies, etc.

What is the role of the psychiatrist?

  • It establishes and recognises the relationship between physical and psychological illnesses

His speciality in mental health allows him to carry out a precise evaluation of the person’s mental status in order to prescribe the appropriate drug treatment for his needs (this prescription cannot be made with a psychologist).  The recommended treatment is frequently found in the case of anxiety disorders or depression. Psychiatric diagnosis is based on a classification of mental disorders (found in the DSM: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and not on an understanding of psychological mechanisms.

  • It prevents psychic and mental illnesses

At the same time, the psychiatrist tries to prevent psychological suffering, addiction, behavioural problems, relationship problems, etc. He helps you to clarify your psychological problems and identifies the symptoms behind which a possible physical illness may lie. He helps you to clarify your psychological problems and identifies the symptoms behind which a possible physical illness must be understood.

A complementary role to that of the psychologist

Although their training is different from that of a psychologist, their skills are not in opposition to the latter but complementary. In fact, they often work together when accompanying certain patients. Consulting a psychologist does not exclude seeing a psychiatrist and vice versa, it can allow you to approach your difficulties from different perspectives.


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