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Difference Between Therapists and Psychiatrists

January 3, 2020


A common question is: what is the difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist and how do I know when I need to see a therapist vs. when I need to see a psychiatrist? Psychiatrists are medical doctors, which means that they went to medical school to learn how to diagnose and treat a variety of mental health conditions. Most psychiatrists prescribe medication and many psychiatrists also do therapy. Therapists often have gone to graduate school and practice therapy but in most states don't prescribe medication. So how do you know when you need to see a therapist vs. when you need to see a psychiatrist? Oftentimes seeing a therapist is the first step and starting with therapy as the first source of intervention for whatever you are struggling with and seeing whether or not that can be helpful. If you find that you continue to have symptoms despite regular therapeutic support, it might be worth considering a referral to a psychiatrist to see whether medications might be helpful. Oftentimes if there is a concern that there might be medical issues or substance abuse also contributing to a mental health condition, having a psychiatric evaluation can also be important.

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