There are a large number of different caregivers in the mental health field. To an outsider, it is often unclear exactly what each type of caregiver does. Consequently, in the vernacular, psychological terms and titles of care providers are frequently used interchangeably. Two specialists whose fields of expertise are close to each other, but do differ, are the psychotherapist and the psychiatrist. What is the difference between the two? And is a psychiatrist actually also a psychotherapist?
What is a psychotherapist?
If you want to become a psychotherapist, you must have completed a specific preliminary education. A four-year university degree in psychology, pedagogy, or health sciences is required. This must include a major in mental health sciences. Also, a doctoral degree or doctoral exam in psychology gives you access to the training for psychotherapists.
The training to become a psychotherapist takes another four years, most of which consists of gaining practical experience. Psychotherapists in training are also required to go through ‘learning therapy’ themselves. Thus, they themselves know exactly what it is like to undergo psychotherapy.
A psychotherapist treats people who have severe mental suffering or complex psychological symptoms. Psychotherapy is, therefore, often intensive and long-term. This distinguishes the psychotherapist from the therapist who often treats less severe psychological problems.
What is a psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is first and foremost a physician. In fact, to become a psychiatrist, you must have completed a six-year course in medicine. Then you follow the training for psychiatrists, which lasts four and a half years. During this training, you specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry, adult psychiatry, or geriatric psychiatry. You can also choose to focus on certain areas, such as addiction psychiatry, hospital psychiatry, or psychiatry for the mentally disabled.
The training of psychiatrists pays attention to different fields, such as clinical psychiatry, emergency psychiatry, and ambulatory psychiatry. It also covers the field of psychiatric psychotherapy. This means that the training of psychotherapists is fully integrated into the training of psychiatrists.
The title of psychiatrist is also protected. The main difference from a psychotherapist is that a psychiatrist is a medical specialist.
Because a psychiatrist is a physician, he or she has the authority to prescribe medication, conduct physical examinations, request laboratory tests, and evaluate their results. Psychiatrists, therefore, play an important role in the treatment of patients for whom medication is necessary. This is the case, for example, for people with schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or severe addiction. Psychoses and certain personality disorders are also treated with medication. Often different specialists work together in such treatment. Are you, for example, under treatment for severe depression with a therapist? Then you still need a psychiatrist to be able to prescribe antidepressants.
A graduated psychiatrist is also a psychotherapist. But while a psychotherapist focuses on psychotherapy, a psychiatrist looks at his patients from a medical perspective.
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