Psychiatrist vs Therapist – What is the Difference?


In a society where mental health is either treated like a myth or a taboo, ignorance about the mental health aid services seems like a given. The most commonly made mistake is thinking that every mental health professional you encounter is a psychiatrist as well as confusing psychiatrists and therapists with one another. While it may seem like psychiatrists and therapists serve the same purpose on the surface, they are not by any means, the same. There are many known Psychiatrists in Lahore but first you must know the difference. 

Psychiatrist or Therapist – Know the Difference

One of the biggest differences between psychiatrists and therapists is their education and training. Psychiatrists attend four years of medical school, with additional training of one or two years followed by a residency period that lasts at least up to three years. While therapists have at least a master’s degree in psychology which is necessary to get a license to start practice. Both professionals have the choice to choose whether they wish to pursue specialization or generalization in their respective fields. Deciding if they want to focus on patients with varying problems or just one subject of interest.

Their method of treatment is also quite different. Therapists are not licensed to issue prescriptions of medicines. Therapists usually focus on helping their clients develop life skills, diagnosing and treating mental health issues, helping the client manage their day to day life with their mental issues, recognizing their feelings and healthily dealing with them usually through a method called talk therapy. Though the treatment method differs from therapist to therapist depending on what their area of specialization is. They are however not medical doctors like psychiatrists. The method of treatment of most psychiatric professionals often includes the management of medical prescriptions. However, occasionally they do provide counseling sessions as well.

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Also, the time of sessions differs in both professions varies as well. With psychiatrists, patients will mostly have one longer intake session while all the following check-ups will mostly last fifteen minutes every three or so months (Note: the time of these check-ups may vary based on patient and psychiatrist). Therapists on the other hand usually have one hour sessions with their patients twice or thrice a week. The time and frequency of these sessions can be altered according to the needs of the patients. 

Between psychiatric professionals and therapists, the former is usually pricier. However, that may not always be the case. Taking on account the regularity of the sessions of therapists coupled with the diseases being treated, experience of the professionals the treatment cost may vary.

If a therapist thinks that you might benefit more from prescriptions they may refer you to a psychiatrist and vice versa. Chances are that if your practitioner thinks that another avenue would fit you better they will let you know. Another option is a psychotherapist who is also a psychiatrist. Though rare, mostly due to the training period, there are many of them around. Some people would even prefer them to a psychiatrist or therapist as this one-stop-shop is highly convenient. It also helps the doctor in getting to know their patient better which makes it easier to detect symptoms and episodes.

Realizing and acknowledging that you need mental aid is a challenging and confusing process. Rather than stressing on which profession you should seek help from, just booking an appointment with any mental health practitioner easily accessible to you is much better. Chances are they will either refer you to someone better suited in treating you or will help you themselves. Either way, do not be afraid to reach out for help. We all know it’s better late than never!

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