For the first timers:
Often people ask do I need a psychiatrist or a psychologist. So here we shall try to understand the basic difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
A psychiatrist is a medically qualified practitioner who will have spent 5 and a half years training as a doctor [MBBS]. Following this, he/she further trains for three years to specialize in psychiatry [MD].
What are a psychiatrist’s special skills?
All psychiatrists will learn how to:
Psychologists have a degree in psychology [BA/MA]. Clinical Psychologists are not usually medically trained but have undertaken a long and robust training following their psychology degree. They are primarily concerned with the study of how people think, act, react and interact.
They can train as a psychotherapist and also counsel people.
However, they are not trained to diagnose a medical illness and cannot use medications.
A psychotherapist may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional who has had further specialist training in psychotherapy. As well as listening and discussing important issues with you, the psychotherapist can suggest strategies for resolving problems and, if necessary, help you to change your attitudes and behavior.
Whom should I see for my problem?
First, it would be good to define your problems or reasons for seeking help on the following lines:
If the answer to the above is yes, then you should definitely consult a psychiatrist.
For others, you can have a word with your family doctor or GP and can then decide whom to see.
I would usually recommend a consultation first with the psychiatrist because as we have seen above a psychiatrist who has been a trained doctor is well placed to pick up any signs of illness or pathology at the earliest.