Psychological and psychiatric treatment: what is the difference?

Taking care of mental health is essential, as it directly reflects on the quality of life and physical health. Sometimes, psychological therapy alone is sufficient. Others, the focus is on the use of psychiatric drugs. But, still, it is possible to combine both therapies.

Therefore, it is worth knowing more about the indications and differences of each one!

What is the difference between psychology and psychiatry?

Psychological and psychiatric treatment have differences, but can be done together in some cases

Psychology and psychiatry are two specialties that take care of mental health, however, they are quite different professions. Psychiatry is a specialization of medicine , while psychology is a science that studies the mental and behavioral functioning of human beings.

In psychiatry, there is a focus on reducing symptoms. Meanwhile, psychology investigates and also works with issues of self-knowledge and the individual’s interpersonal relationships.

Within the latter, there is clinical psychology , which is an area in which knowledge is applied to the treatment of mental disorders, to the resolution of emotional and interpersonal conflicts, among others.

The main difference between it and clinical psychiatry is that psychology seeks to work on the problems brought by patients through techniques, such as relaxation and emotion expression, while psychiatry uses a pharmacological approach (drugs).

It is important to note that psychology has a wide variety of approaches, that is, the ways in which therapy is performed and which techniques will be applied.

Among the main ones are:

  • Psychoanalysis;
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy;
  • Behaviorismo;
  • Analytical psychology;
  • Systemic therapy;
  • Shape terapia.

However, there are many other approaches that can be studied and applied in the clinic.

Psychological treatments

Each approach to psychology has a way of interpreting the functioning of the mind. With this, it is possible to find out where the emotional conflict comes from and “attack evil at the root”, that is, deal with the problem from its origin.

The psychologist or psychologist is also qualified to apply tests in order to carry out a psychological assessment, which is the exclusive activity of the psychologist and, therefore, psychiatrists cannot do.

It is important to emphasize that psychology does not reject what is of the order of the biological, but it cannot interfere in this issue, considering that psychologists are not trained in medicine.

When necessary, the psychologist can refer a patient to a psychiatrist to work on this issue. Therefore, clinical psychology and psychiatry are complementary , not exclusive.

Psychiatric treatments

Psychiatry is more concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental and behavioral disorders.

Being a specialty of medicine, psychiatrists are doctors who can prescribe medication if needed. Among the psychiatric drugs frequently indicated are antidepressants, anxiolytics and mood stabilizers.

Psychiatry, therefore, has a very medical view of the problem, taking into account biological and neurochemical factors.

Experts may order tests to check that the symptoms are not being caused by underlying illnesses, such as hypo or hyperthyroidism , which can be confused with depression and anxiety respectively.

Do I need to do psychological or psychiatric treatment together?

It is not necessary to have treatment with a psychologist and psychiatrist at the same time, but in some cases it is recommended.

A number of disorders can be treated only with the techniques of psychology if they are at a mild or moderate level. However, when the disorder is severe and significantly affects the individual’s functioning, psychiatric treatment is indicated.

There is no obligation to undergo treatment with a psychologist when undergoing psychiatric treatment, but it is often indicated that a patient using psychiatric medication is undergoing therapy as well.

This is because the psychologist or psychologist can make a more accurate assessment of the effectiveness of the medication, considering that therapy sessions occur weekly, while psychiatric consultations occur every 1 or 2 months.

How do I know if I need psychological or psychiatric treatment?

It is not possible to find out on your own what type of treatment is right for you. It is necessary to visit one of the two professionals so that they can make the most appropriate referral.

It is possible to go to psychologists to make an initial assessment and, if the professional considers it necessary, he can refer to psychiatry and continue psychotherapy.

Likewise, you can make an appointment directly with a psychiatrist, who will assess the case and, if necessary, indicate the appropriate medications and refer you to therapy.

There may be cases in which the psychiatrist believes that the use of medication is not necessary, referring only to a psychologist. Many people feel neglected when this occurs, as they want a quick resolution to their afflictions.

However, the use of medication is not always the most appropriate for the case and, therefore, a responsible psychiatrist will weigh the consequences of indicating a medication unnecessarily, choosing to indicate only one therapy.

What is the importance of combining treatments?

Doing the right treatment, whether psychological and / or psychiatric, helps in quality of life

There are several reasons why psychiatry and clinical psychology go hand in hand. The treatment of various psychological conditions depends a lot on the situation that the person is experiencing.

A person with depression, for example, may need antidepressants – and these are effective, but the problem is often related to environmental factors as well.

Thus, if the person does not know how to act appropriately to the demands of the environment, when withdrawing the medication, the tendency is that there will be a relapse in depression.

Therefore, one of the goals of psychotherapy in conjunction with psychiatric treatment is to help the patient to respond adequately to the environment, or, if possible, modify it so that it is no longer harmful to their mental health.

There are cases, for example, in which the person does not necessarily have a mental disorder, but is going through a very emotionally charged moment, such as grieving , separation, unemployment, among others.

In such cases, it is common for depressive symptoms to appear that can be treated by medication. In addition, psychotherapeutic follow-up can also help a lot.


To have quality of life, it is necessary to find a balance between physical and mental health. Therefore, the Healthy Minute helps you to understand more about it.

See more information on psychology and psychiatry, as well as other specialties.

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