I’m Dr. Stephanie Woodfin, Director of Psychiatry for Acacia Counseling and Wellness! Throughout my years as a practicing psychiatrist and dedicated provider to a wide range of patients, I’ve often come across that there is, at times, some confusion around the work I do and what some of my fellow colleagues in the mental health realm do. I’m here to answer some of the most commonly raised questions!

What’s the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

Psychiatry and Psychology have plenty in common. Both assess your mental health and come up with a plan to help treat the symptoms that trouble you. The biggest difference is that Psychiatrists are medical doctors and prescribe medications in addition to providing therapeutic interventions. 

How does someone become a Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are physicians who completed undergraduate degrees and go on to study for 4 years in medical school. After graduating from medical school, they attend a 4 year residency program that includes an internship in which they spend time working in other specialties like Emergency medicine, Neurology, and Internal medicine. Their training includes treating both inpatient and outpatient psychiatry patients and encompasses treating everything from Schizophrenia to Depression. 

After 4 years in residency, some Psychiatrists continue to specialize through a Fellowship program in areas like Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Forensics, and Substance Abuse. 

What happens in a Psychiatry appointment?

Psychiatrists often work in close collaboration with Psychologists to provide comprehensive care. During your first appointment, your Psychiatrist will meet with you for an hour. During that time, they’ll ask you about the symptoms that are distressing you, gather information regarding your medical history including what medications you are taking and if you have any physical medical problems or concerns. They’ll also ask you about your family history, your academic, work, and relationship stressors as well as assess your use of substances and how that might be affecting your overall health. By the end of the intake, they will make recommendations for treatment tailored to your concerns and may include: 

  • Medications 
  • Lab work
  • Therapy 
  • Nutrition goals
  • Exercise recommendations
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Referral to any other medical specialty relevant to your needs

Your Psychiatrist will want to see you regularly for 30-minute follow-up visits and will work in tandem with your Psychologist to ensure you are getting the best care possible.

Pulling it all together…

Although there a lot of differences between psychiatrists and psychologists, our mission and values often align in that we are here to serve our communities, provide valuable resources, and work to fight the stigma around medications. I hope this helps clarify some of the major differences and provide insights into how mental health providers work together with our clients to optimize their mental health! It’s all about growth!

Author, Dr. Stephanie Woodfin, Director of Psychiatry at Acacia Counseling and Wellness

Want to learn more about psychiatry at Acacia? Visit us here.

One Comment on “Psychiatry & Psychology: What’s the Difference?

  1. Nice info. During the time I felt so depressed that I don’t understand what’s going on. I tried to talk to a Psychologist in Irvine to know what should I do. Some friends said that if I want a talk therapy, I should consult a Psychologist and if I think that medicines will help me recover, I have to go to a Psychiatrist. […]

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