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What’s the Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychiatrist

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

Since both therapists and psychiatrists specialize in treating individuals with mental health concerns, many don’t know the difference between them. It is helpful to understand which profession does what to know how to choose which professional is best suited for your needs, as well as to know when both should be used to optimize treatment.

Let’s take a look at their differences:

What a Therapist Does

A therapist, also referred to as a psychotherapist or counselor, is a mental health expert who works together with a client, whether face-to-face or via online therapy, to alleviate mental health concerns as well as relational ones (both for romantic or family relationships). The goal in therapy is to improve insight, and generate both internal and external changes (external in the case of relationship dynamics changing).

Some of the services a therapist can offer to their clients include:

  • Listening and analyzing the client's present issues. Therapists are great listeners and help their patients find their courage and strength to face and make sense of difficult experiences and emotions, learn to cope, and have healthy and productive lives.

  • Engages in counseling procedures and assessments, and formulates questions to bring out feelings and typical behaviors.

  • Helping clients to manage and alleviate symptoms associated with mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc., or relationship concerns.

  • Offering a comforting hand to their clients. A big contributor to healing from negative past experiences is to feel heard by someone that does it without judgement and preconceived notions. This results in not feeling alone and understood, something that is needed for menthol health well-being.

  • Assisting clients to change maladaptive behaviors and thinking patterns.

  • Teaching clients how to successfully resolve emotional, professional, and relational conflicts.

  • Some therapists are also trained in somatic therapy models, such as EMDR and tapping, which aid in relieving physical trauma responses.

  • A therapist does not administer medication to the clients. In cases medication may be beneficial, a therapist will refer their patients to a psychiatrist, a medical professional, or mental health facility when deemed necessary.

What a Psychiatrist Does

  • A psychiatrist’s primary focus is on diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental health problems, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, drug abuse, anxiety, among others.

  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors specialized in mental health issues and drug abuse disorders.

  • With the medical training they undergo, psychiatrists are qualified to know the connection between psychology, mental disease, and medical conditions. This helps them obtain a diagnosis for their patients and decide on the best effective treatment plan.

  • For treatment, a psychiatrist may use brain stimulation therapy, and medication by prescription stimulants, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or sedatives. Some psychiatrists are also trained in talk therapy, but it is not typical.

So in a nutshell, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health by diagnosing and treating individuals suffering from mental illnesses, typically through the use of medication. On the other hand, a therapist is licensed to help patients develop superior cognitive and emotional skills, minimize symptoms associated with mental health or relationship concerns, and assist them through challenging periods in their lives.

A therapist and a psychiatrist often work together but the latter usually makes an assessment, provides a diagnosis, and prescribes medication to the patient and then refers them to a therapist for talk therapy. Research shows that the best treatment approach is to have a combination of both--see a therapist and psychiatrist at the same time, as medication helps relieve the physical symptoms of mental health concerns, and talk therapy helps with gaining awareness, coping skills, life skills, and enhancing relationships.

Your Therapy Friend,


Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Perinatal & Relationships Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationship with their children and significant other. Her private practice is located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and in Business Administration. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Perinatal Mental Health Certified Professional, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens. She loves her family, which consists of her husband, daughter and son, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: and follow her on Facebook at

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