Psychiatrist, vs. Psychologist, vs. Psychotherapist?

You know you are in the mental health field when someone asks you this question (at least once) on a monthly basis.You probably already have an automatic response for this in your daily treatment repertoire. The following is a snapshot of our skills and abilities:


  • Medical Psychologists complete two years of graduate training in clinical psychopharmacology, in addition to their doctorate degree. They can prescribe and treat with medication in certain jurisdictions: Federal, Military, Louisiana, New Mexico, Illinois, Guam, and Indian Reservations. Differentiation: Both Drug Prescription and Psychological Testing (in addition to therapy)


  • Psychiatrists go to medical school and typically prescribe and treat with medication. Pharmaceuticals such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication mainly fall within the scope of practice of medical doctors and some medical psychologists. Differentiation: Drug Prescriptions


  • Psychologists could be: research psychologists – Ph.D.s – and clinical psychologists Psy.Ds (some are Ph.Ds also) who did graduate level work for 3-5 years and wrote doctoral dissertations on their particular areas of interest. Differentiation: Psychological Assessments (Testing).



These clinicians completed a master’s degree of science or arts along with post-graduate supervised experience. Their competences overlap significantly and vary by state. They provide care to individuals, couples, and families; they also diagnose and treat mental health illnesses.

  • School Psychologists are the only ‘psychologists’ that are not required to have a doctorate degree. Differentiation: Psycho-Educational Evaluations. 


  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) focus on individuals, couples, and families whose problems regard their relationships. Differentiation: Relationships.


  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) usually require a minimum of a Master’s degree in Social Work. Differentiation: Clinics and Private Practice.


  • Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, (LPCC or LPC) and Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC) usually require a minimum of a master’s degree in counseling. They work with individuals, couples, and families. Differentiation: Career Counseling.


*Psychometric Privileges: Some states (i.e. Wisconsin) allow master-level clinicians with proper training and supervised experience, to engage in psychometric testing, including the use psychological tests for diagnostic purposes.  (same as psychologists).


***No matter how well educated we are, the therapeutic alliance is be the most important and the best predictor of treatment outcome***

P.S. Feel free to add anything we may have overlooked.

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