Do I need a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist?

We often get confused regarding whether to consult a psychologists or a psychiatrist for help on our mental health problems. Psychologists and psychiatrists are just two professionals with separate roles in the mental health industry.
Depression Picture - LocateADoc.comBoth professionals are good places to seek help for mental health issues. The main difference is that psychiatrists are doctors (they are M.D’s) and psychologists are not. Psychiatrists are doctors specializing in in the medical specialty of psychiatry, and they can diagnose mental illnesses, manage patient cases, prescribe medicines and perform psychotherapy. 
On the other hand, psychologists are professionals (similar to registered nurses, medical technicians and physical therapists). They treat mental problems using psychotherapy, with limited focus on medicines. Psychologists are also focused on studying and researching cognitive, emotional processes and behavior on individuals or groups of people. You can find psychologists working on individual patients, hospitals, companies and in schools. 
Psychiatrists are actually specialist focused on mental health. Psychologists focus on studying human behavior, and treating mental health issues using psychotherapy and medications. 

When should I consult a psychologist?

Psychologists are the places to seek help for treating preexisting mental health issues. In addition, psychologists also treat mood (like depression) and anxiety disorders, which are less severe. If you are emotionally distressed, anxious or nervous, grieving, fearful or simply feel overwhelmed for the past week and more, you may need to visit a psychologist.  All of us have certain mental health complaints of some kind in the past month, such as stress, burnout, problems sleeping, irritability or fatigue. Visiting a psychologist can prove to help you if you have any of these complaints. 
A psychologist can provide expert and realistic advice to real-life situations, like childcare, taking care of an elderly relative, relieving work-related stress or pressure at school. Psychologists are needed for treatment and monitoring of individuals with mental illnesses. 
In fact, people regardless of their mental health status should pay a visit to a psychologist at least once a year.

When should I seek help of a psychiatrist?

More serious mental health problems require help from a psychiatrist. They are the ones that do diagnosis and creating treatment plans for mental illnesses. In contrast, psychologists focus on maintaining treatment regimen formulated by psychiatrists. If you need help for more severe mental health issues, such as substance dependence, schizophrenia or bipolar disorders, you need to go to a psychiatrist. 
Because they are doctors, psychiatrists are experts in handling and treating more severe mental illnesses. Psychiatrists have full powers to prescribe medications, and can give you prescriptions so you can purchase antipsychotics, antidepressants and narcotics. But psychiatrists also perform psychotherapy and counseling as well to treat mental illnesses. 
In addition to prescribing prescriptions, psychiatrists also order clinical examinations and tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT), positron emission topography (PET) and blood tests. 
Therefore, if you want to start treatment for mental health issues, it is a good idea to go to the psychiatrist’s office. 
Depending on your needs, you can find a psychologist or find a psychiatrist in your area.

Photo By Sander van der Wel [Creative Commons]