One of the most common questions that I get asked is “what is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?” In practical terms, psychiatrists administer pharmaceutical drugs and psychologists cannot. Although their is talk of doctoral level training in pharmacology for psychologists to be able to administer drugs to the patients. this article prepared by Mark Korduba
Psychiatrist’s are medically trained and have a deep understanding of the biological basis of mental health conditions. They are typically more interested in psychiatric conditions which are caused by a chemical imbalances in the human brain. For example, bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia. These conditions need to be managed through medication and therapy.
Whereas psychologists tend to treat patients with psychological problems such as depression, anxiety or anger management problems. While it is common for people to be on anti-depressants or anxiety pills to manage symptoms, psychologists will provide therapy to treat the condition.
Typically psychiatrists will see their clients for a shorter period of time (i.e., 20 mins) and sessions will be further apart. Psychologists will see their clients for an hour, with sessions held more frequently depending on the condition and stage of therapy. The Australian Federal Government provides unlimited sessions to see a psychiatrist (provided that you have a referral from your GP) and caps the number of sessions that you can see a psychologist at 10/ year.
A criticism of psychiatrists is that they lack the therapeutic skills needed to successfully counsel clients and that their is an overemphasis on your relationship with your parents. Before making an appointment it is important that you are clear as to the reason for your appointment. Is it to review your medication or for therapy or both? If it is for therapy make sure that the appointment lasts at least 40 minute. Medication reviews can be done in 15 minute sessions.
Sometimes psychologists overstep their professional expertise and provide clients with advice about their medication. They do not have the training and should not be commenting on such matters. It is up to your GP and psychiatrist to determine this. Having said that, I have noticed a tendency from GPs to administer anti-depressants for anxiety, depression and even anger related issues. Make sure to ask your GP plenty of questions before accepting the script.
Oftentimes psychiatrists will have extremely long waiting lists. This is a problem that psychologists have as well but usually they are easier to see. Try and find someone where you will be able to get an appointment to see within 2-3 weeks.
Costs can sometimes be prohibitive to see a mental health professional. I have heard of cases of psychiatrists charging $400+/ hour. Some psychologists can charge in excess of $220 per hour. If you look hard enough, you will be able to find quality bulk billing practitioners in your local area.
Ultimately the answer is very simple. If you need medication, then go and talk with your GP. If they are unable to help you then they will refer you to see a psychiatrist. If you need therapy, then go and see a psychologist. They are cheaper and that is what they have been trained to do. If you need to be diagnosed, see a psychiatrist as they have a lot more training in this area than do clinical psychologists Brisbane Northside.