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Psychology v Psychiatry: What’s the Difference?

Psychology v psychiatry

Many people use the terms “psychology” and “psychiatry” interchangeably, but the truth is, there are some distinct differences between the two practices. Knowing these distinctions is important when searching for a suitable mental health professional. Some patients may find treatment successful with either a psychiatrist OR a psychologist, while some patients find that the combination of cognitive-behavioural therapy with a psychologist and a medication regimen with a psychiatrist is a more comprehensive form of treatment. Here we will explore the specifics of each practice in order to help you make a more informed decision about your mental health.


Psychiatry is the “medical field concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental health conditions”. Simply put, psychiatrists are medical doctors. They attend medical school and foundation training before undergoing lengthy specialty training. They can write prescriptions and order lab tests to check the levels of medication in the blood, and they will look for both positive outcomes and potential problems resulting from the use of the medication. When evaluating a patient at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, your psychiatrist will first discuss your health background before recommending a treatment package. With your agreement, they will then communicate with your GP to ensure that you are always receiving the most appropriate medical treatment.


Psychology is defined by Oxford English Dictionary as “the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context”. It is important to note that while many psychologists are doctors, they are not medical doctors; rather they possess either a PhD or a PsyD. Psychologists are not qualified to perform medical tests but, as mental health professionals, they specialise in administering psychological therapies, such cognitive-behavioural therapy, dialectical-behaviour therapy and schema therapy.

Should I see a psychiatrist or psychologist?

The most important question here is whether you think you will need medication or not. If you feel it likely that medication is necessary, you should book a private consultation with a psychiatrist, who will assess you, make a diagnosis, and together you will then develop a treatment plan. Here, it may still be the case that a psychologist will be able to provide essential support throughout the period of your treatment.

If, however, you feel that medication will not be necessary, there is a range of effective psychological therapies available at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. An initial private consultation will help you better understand what each of these therapies offer and which is most suitable to your individual needs. During that first consultation, be prepared to talk about your challenges, your physical health, and your expectations of your treatment.

If you would like to make a booking or learn more about our services, contact us today.