Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
There are quite significant differences between psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy roles and they tend to deal with different types of problems, although there is considerable overlap in their work, below is a brief description of each of the careers and you can explore psychology and psychotherapy individually by clicking on the links in “Related information…”
What is psychology?
Psychology is the study of people: how they think, how they act, react and interact. Psychology is concerned with all aspects of behaviour and the thoughts, feelings and motivation underlying such behaviour.
Psychology is a discipline that is firstly concerned with the normal functioning of the mind and has explored areas such as learning, remembering and the normal psychological development of children. Psychology is one of the fastest growing university subjects and is becoming more and more available in schools and colleges.
Psychologists deal in the way the mind works and motivation, and can specialise in various areas such as; mental health work and educational and occupational psychology.
It is useful to remember that psychologists are not usually medically qualified and only a small proportion of people studying psychology degrees will go on to work with patients.
Psychiatry is the study of mental disorders and their diagnosis, management and prevention. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have qualified in psychiatry. They often combine a broad general caseload alongside an area of special expertise and research.
Psychotherapy is conducted in several different ways for example individual, group, couple and family psychotherapy. They are all ways of helping people to overcome stress, emotional problems, relationship problems or troublesome habits.
There are many different approaches in psychotherapy, these are “talking therapies” which include;
- cognitive behavioural therapies
- psychoanalytic therapies
- psychodynamic therapies
- systemic and family psychotherapy
- arts therapies
- play therapies
- humanistic and integrative psychotherapies
- experiential constructivist therapies
A psychotherapist may be a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional who has had further specialist training in psychotherapy. Increasingly there are a number of psychotherapists who do not have backgrounds in the above fields but who have undertaken in depth training in this area.
Consultant psychiatrists in psychotherapy are medical doctors who have qualified in psychiatry and then undertaken a three or four-year specialist training in psychotherapy. Their role is in the psychotherapeutic treatment of patients with psychiatric illnesses.
The difference between psychologists and psychiatrists
Psychologists and psychiatrists both work in the area of mental health, and often work together. However, there are some significant differences between the two professions in the following areas.
Education and qualifications
Psychologists study human behaviour in their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees before undertaking supervised experience and gaining registration. They do not have a medical degree; however, many have postgraduate qualifications to specialise in various aspects of psychology, including mental illness.
Psychiatrists have a medical degree, which involves six years of studying general medicine, followed by further study to specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and emotional problems.
Psychologists assist people with everyday problems such as stress and relationship difficulties, and some specialise in treating people with a mental illness. They help people to develop the skills needed to function better and to prevent ongoing problems.
Psychiatrists treat the effects of emotional disturbances on the body and the effects of physical conditions on the mind.
Psychologists cannot prescribe medication. Their treatments are based on changing behaviour and emotional responses without medication. There is a considerable amount of evidence showing psychological treatments are effective.
Psychiatrists can prescribe medication. Some combine medication with other forms of therapy.
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