What is the Difference Between Psychology and Psychiatry?

When you’re picking your A-Levels, looking into the future and trying to decide what you want to do for a career is difficult. Making a decision about something so important when you don’t have all the information and insight you need is almost impossible, and choosing based on a flawed idea of what a particular job is like can lead to terrible problems later in life. In some cases, you may have parents pushing you towards a particular career based on flawed, outdated impressions of the its security and accessibility.

Today, let’s take a look at two mental health jobs, and clear up some of the confusion that surrounds these two similar, similarly spelled but very different specialists, and how they help people suffering with mental health issues – which, let’s not forget affect up to one in four people.

Psychologists and Psychiatrists

It’s easy to get these two confused, so let’s address them carefully.

Psychiatry is a medical specialism on a par with a surgery or ophthalmology. It involves the treatment of psychiatric disorders that often, though not always require medication. In addition to, or instead of medication, they can refer patients for other treatments, including kinds of psychological therapy.

The focus of psychiatry is on diagnosing a patient and then creating a treatment plan that will help them. They most often work for the NHS in hospitals and specialist mental health units, where they can treat those most in need and assess incoming patients to work out how best to treat them.

Psychologists on the other hand study for an academic degree rather than a medical qualification. They still require certification to practice, but their background is in university rather than a hospital.

Psychologists specialise in different kinds of therapy that can help different patients. Matching the right patient to the right psychologist can take a while: different approaches work better with different issues, and the patient and therapist need to establish the right rapport to work together. A popular kind of therapy many psychologists currently practice is CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy: a talking therapy that helps patients break negative patterns in their thoughts and feels that lead to negative actions that impact their life.

Psychologists can work for the NHS, and many do, on hand to help with patients’ treatments in hospitals and specialised units. Just as often, however, you may find a psychologist working with private patients in a rented office or even their own home. It’s also common for many to work partially with the NHS and partially maintain their private practice, so it’s clear psychology offers a lot of flexibility and independence for those who can really make it work for them.


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