What is the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

by admin on November 22, 2010

Hospice de la Salpêtrière by Gautier

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental, illness that can prescribe medications.  Psychiatrists must go to medical school first, then they spend time specializing in their field. Their approach to therapy tends to be more biological and physiological in nature; looking into the physical causes of mental disease.

Psychologists also work with individuals suffering from mental disease, but employ a wider variety of treatment modalities/theories. Psychologists are not medical doctors, therefore, they cannot order tests, perform physical examinations or prescribe medication. Psychologists can be employed in clinical practice – providing individual or group therapy, or in research – working at a university teaching and researching.

In Canada; psychiatrists are medical professionals whose fees are covered by our national medical plan. Psychologists charge an hourly rate and are covered only by extended medical. Because visit to a psychiatrist doesn’t cost a patient out of pocket, wait lists in Canada to see psychiatrists are very long and can take months, and sometimes years before an appointment becomes available.

The lithograph shown here is an artist rendition of 8 different mental disorders – or what were at the time, considered to be mental disorders (all definitions are from Wikipedia):

Dementia: A serious loss of cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person beyond what might be expected with normal aging.

Megalomania: A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence.

Acute Mania: AKA Bipolar Disorder is a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood with or without one or more depressive episodes.

Melancholia: a mood disorder of non-specific depression, characterized by low levels of both enthusiasm and eagerness for activity.

Idiocy: a mentally deficient person.

Hallucination: perception in the absence of a stimulus.

Erotic Mania – Wikipedia doesn’t have an article on this disorder which I find quite interesting.

Paralysis – the complete loss of muscle function for one or more muscle groups.

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