What distinguishes a psychiatrist from a therapist's professional competence and methods of treatment

In the field of psychological and mental health there are several health professionals. Many do not know what is the difference between a psychiatrist and a therapist, believing that it is one and the same doctor.

Психиатр и психотерапевт - медицинские специалисты, которые лечат психические заболевания, но методики лечения у них разные
Psychiatrist and psychotherapist – medical professionals who treat mental illness, but the treatments are different

What is the difference and similarities of these medical professionals, what they treat and what methods are used?

The main differences

The main similarity of therapist and psychiatrist that both of these are specialist doctors, unlike psychologists. That is, the psychiatrist and psychotherapist should have higher medical education in the specialty "psychiatry".

Both doctors help to cope with mental health problems and illnesses, and the main difference between them lies in the treatment areas and methods of medical care.

A psychotherapist is a specialist in the areas of "psychotherapy and psychiatry", methods of treatment which are mostly ways of non-drug therapy. But, like any doctor, therapist has the right to prescribe medication. This expert is mostly mental illness of mild and medium severity.

Psychiatrist – a medical specialist profile "psychiatry", dealing with the treatment of severe mental disorders and pathologies with pharmacological methods. Psychiatrists can be both General and narrow profile, i.e., have limited abilities (for example, associated with the addiction, sexology, etc.).

Please note! The therapist needs to have experience of working in psychiatry – at least three years.

In order to become a therapist, a psychiatrist, after graduating from medical school takes special training. With additional training, the doctor may choose one of the areas of: General methods of psychotherapy, psychoanalysis or any narrow specialization.

The therapist is not engaged in the severe mental pathologies, and as a psychologist, may be consulted and treated healthy patients with some mental problems. For the treatment of serious mental illnesses requiring immediate medical treatment or even hospitalization, you go to a psychiatrist.

That treat a psychiatrist and psychotherapist

The activity therapist is associated with treatment of boundary mental disorders. It can be a long apathy, depression, anxiety, phobias, problems at work and in your personal life, stress, conflict with parents and children. With these types of disorders can also turn to a psychologist, but this person will not be able to prescribe medical drugs if necessary.

That helps to treat therapist:

  • External and internal conflicts;
  • Panic attacks;
  • Overcoming life crises: divorce, suicidal thoughts, loss of loved ones, depression, sexual abuse, etc.;
Психотерапевт помогает преодолеть жизненные кризисы
The therapist helps you to overcome life crises
  • Nervous breakdowns, neurasthenia;
  • Constant depressed mood;
  • Obsessive fears, phobias;
  • Prolonged insomnia;
  • Psychosis and neuroses average and easy severity;
  • Addiction (alcohol, tobacco, workaholism, kleptomania, gluttony, social networks, etc.).

Often as a result of violations of emotional balance internal organs suffer, and the patient tries in vain to cure the disease without addressing its cause.For the treatment of pathologies that have a psychological character, also appeal to the psychotherapist. The specialist helps in the treatment of psychosomatic diseases.

  • Skin diseases (dermatitisAllergy, psoriasis);
  • Respiratory (night attacks suffocation, bronchial asthma);
  • Cardiovascular diseases (vegetative-vascular dystonia, hypertension);
  • Of the digestive system (colitisulcers, gastritis).

Serious diseases of mental character deals with a psychiatrist. This disorders and syndromes in which a person completely loses control of himself. Such diseases are dangerous not only for the health and life of the patient, but also for others.

What can heal a psychiatrist:

  • Macular degeneration (senile dementia);
  • epilepsy;
  • schizophrenia;
  • Paranoid ideas;
  • Eating disorders and sleep;
  • Suicidal tendencies;
  • Mental retardation;
  • Hallucinations, delusions;
  • Autism;
  • Manic-depressive psychosis;
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Neurological disorders (severe depression, neurosessexual disorders);
  • Drug dependence;
  • The lag in development.

Please note! Often the treatment of mental disorders requires a holistic approach, so there are cases when a therapist and a psychologist engaged in the same patient. This approach increases the effectiveness of the therapy and increases the chances of recovery.

In medical practice often doctors of different specialization direct the patient to visit a psychiatrist. This does not mean that the patient is mentally ill and he was immediately put on the account. This inspection is required to assign the right tactics of treatment with another doctor.

How to treat a psychiatrist and psychotherapist

Психотерапевту важно выявить первопричину заболевания, после этого он подбирает тактику лечения
Therapist it is important to identify the cause of the disease, then he picks the tactics of treatment

As a psychologist, a therapist treats the word, the conversations, helps to deal with conflict situations, looking for the root cause of mental disorders. But along with psychotherapeutic methods specialist has the right to use and prescribe medication, although usually uses this method only as an auxiliary.

If psychotherapy specialist joins with the patient in a trusting relationship, teaches the patient skills that will help him to cope with critical situations: the technique of meditation and breathing, perception of oneself and the external world, of self-esteem. To do this, doctors use non-drug methods of treatment to impact on feelings, thought processes, behavior of the patient:

  • Behavioral therapy (adequate attitude to the problem, self);
  • Cognitive therapy (adequate assessment and perception of what is happening);
  • Psychodynamic therapy (a method of solving conflicts);
  • Gestalt therapy (focus on emotions, feelings, desires);
  • Hypnosis.

Usual methods of psychotherapy is sufficient for recovery of the patient and improve his condition. But there are cases where a single therapy is not enough and then the patient is assigned the other treatment options and prescribed drugs. If necessary, the therapist can redirect patients in a psychiatric institution, the psychiatrist or other medical experts.

The therapist may work with one person, with couples and conduct group therapy sessions on the basis of special medical institutions. The expert knows several methods of influence on people, so can work with patients of different ages.

Please note! For the therapist it is important to identify the root cause of the condition. Only after that the expert chooses the tactics of therapy and prescribes treatment.

Depending on the selected tactics of treatment of the therapy can vary from 2-10 sessions to several years of continuous treatment. Most specialists prescribe a one hour session once a week, but the duration and frequency of visits may be adjusted depending on the condition of the patient and according to his wish.

A psychiatrist,unlike other specialists in mental diseases, has a broader approach to the treatment of diseases. The doctor examines the patient on the basis of research and analysis with the help of medical laboratory and psychological tests.

The basic approach to the treatment of a psychiatrist – appointment of drugs that help to relieve the patient from symptoms and attacks, improve the General condition of the patient, to adjust his mental and physical health.

Психиатр корректирует психическое состояние человека с помощью медикаментов
Psychiatrist corrects mental state with medication

Psychiatrists usually prescribe:

  • Antipsychotics to treat psychotic symptoms, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia;
  • antidepressants – for the treatment of panic disorder, depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders.
  • Mood stabilizers for treatment of bipolar disorder;
  • Anxiolytic means for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety;
  • Stimulants to treat hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder.

Important! The main tool of the therapist is the words of a psychiatrist – medication.

A normal appointment with a psychiatrist is a 15-minute examination of the patient every three months. But if the patient is in critical condition, taking potent drugs, the psychiatrist adjusts the schedule of the reception and, if necessary, takes the decision to refer the patient to a specialized medical institution.

As a therapist, a psychiatrist in his work communicates with patients, but does not practice psychotherapy. Therefore, in some cases it is required that all professionals in the field of mental pathologies have been working together to achieve more effective results.


The main difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is the different approaches to treatment, so the patient is usually difficult to determine to what expert to address. If you suspect a mental disorder it is better to first go to a psychiatrist.

Do not be afraid of meeting with the psychiatrist and immediate registration – the representatives of the medical profession quite often interact with mentally healthy people.

To schedule a consultation for a psychiatrist and therapist can also psychologist if you suspect the person of mental disorders and disorders.

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Author: Updated article: 23.04.2019
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