Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists/Counsellor | A Detailed Comparison

Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists/counsellors are both mental health professionals who do extensive studies to cure people’s mental health. At the core, both professions have the same job and many similarities.

Ordinary people often confuse the two professions, thinking that psychiatrists and psychotherapists/counsellors are the same professions with different names. However, that is not true at all, and each of these professionals treats their patients in an entirely different way.

This article will give a detailed overview of psychiatrists and psychotherapists/counsellors and clarify any confusion.

What is Psychiatry and Who is a Psychiatrist?

Psychiatry is a branch of mental health that involves treating the mental health of the patient with the help of medicines.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in psychiatry and deal with patients with a similar practice that a routine doctor does with regular patients. A psychiatrist deals with a patient with mental health based on the tests performed and will prescribe medication based on those results.

For example, when a person is depressed, it is due to specific imbalances in the chemicals present in the brain, and the psychiatrist will prescribe medicine to bring those chemicals back to the average level. A psychiatrist does not find the root cause of the problem and just works on solving it medically.

A psychiatrist might refer the patients to a psychotherapist/counsellor along with giving medicine for a more detailed diagnosis and permanent solution to the problems of the patients.

What is Psychotherapy and Who is a Psychotherapist/Counsellor?

Psychotherapy is the branch of applied psychology that, with the help of counseling sessions, aims to solve the long-term mental health issues and concerns of patients using various established techniques.

Psychotherapy is a long-term process that involves multiple regular sessions. According to the need, these sessions can be one-on-one with the patient and psychotherapist/counsellor or with friends, family, relatives, and colleagues.

Psychotherapists/counsellors are the people who perform these counseling and therapy sessions with their patients. The techniques and therapies used by psychotherapists/counsellors are usually derived from psychology and psychiatry. Most therapies used by psychotherapists/counsellors are well-established and have been used for a long time.

Some of the therapies are:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Couples Therapy
  • Arts and Play Therapy
  • Hypno-psychotherapy

A psychotherapist/counsellor is there for long-term treatment that helps give the patient a coping mechanism to deal with their long-term problems better than before.

Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists

How to Become a Psychiatrist?

Now that we have a general idea of what it takes to become a psychiatrist let’s discuss how to become one. Becoming a psychiatrist is not everyone’s cup of tea, but here is how to become one.

  • Education

After completing your basic studies, the first step in becoming a psychiatrist is admission to a medical school. You will then want to complete your average medical degree. This degree usually takes 4-5 years, depending on your country. The undergraduate program for becoming a doctor in the UK is five years long.

  • Foundation Training

After completing your medical degree, you must complete the regular foundation training in a hospital. This training generally lasts for two years.

  • Licensing

After you have obtained your degree and completed your foundation training, you can start studying to become a psychiatrist. You can opt for specialized training in psychiatry, followed by extensive general training in psychiatry. These trainings last for three years, adding up to six years in total. After this, you will obtain a professional license to practice psychiatry.

  • Words of Advice

This study takes 13 years to complete, but the respect that psychiatrists receive makes it worth it. During your undergraduate study, joining an authentic professional association related to psychiatry is advised, as it will help you network with psychiatrists and provide many training opportunities.

How to Become a Psychotherapist/Counsellor?

There are two paths that you can choose from when becoming a psychotherapist/counsellor. The first one is to follow all the above steps to become a psychiatrist and then receive certification in therapy to become a psychotherapist/counsellor. The other path is mentioned below.

  • Education

First, you must complete your primary study to qualify for admission to a respected university. You can either complete A-levels or do a diploma in counselling.

Afterwards, you will need to earn an undergraduate degree from a university. Choosing psychology as a major in undergrad is wise as it will provide a strong foundation for your psychotherapist/counsellor practices.

After you have completed your undergraduate degree, you will need to earn a postgraduate degree in psychotherapy. This degree should be approved by one of the following associations:

Association of Child Psychotherapists

United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapists

British Psychoanalytic Council

  • Training

After obtaining your postgraduate degree comes the process of training. You will need to complete 450 hours of extensive applied training under an experienced and established psychotherapist/counsellor to get your professional license for being a psychotherapist/counsellor.

Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists

Similarities between Psychiatry and Psychotherapy

Psychiatry and psychotherapy are similar in a way that both deal with curing patients with mental health issues. They deal with patients suffering from the same mental health issues, such as:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-Stress Traumatic Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality Disorder
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Stress Disorder
  • Mood Disorders
  • Depression

The similarities between psychiatrists and psychotherapists/counsellors end here.

Differences between Psychiatry and Psychotherapy

There are a lot of differences between psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy focuses on therapies, whereas psychiatry focuses on the medicinal treatment of the patient.

Psychotherapy is more effective in the long run in some cases, such as ADHD, where the patients are provided with the tools to fight against the disorders. On the other hand, the effect of psychiatric medications only lasts until the patient is taking the medicines.

One significant difference between a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist/counsellor is that a psychiatrist can prescribe medicine to a patient, whereas a psychotherapist/counsellor is not licensed.


In conclusion, you should carefully choose between psychotherapy and psychiatry. Both deal with the same type of patients but differ a lot in their treatment methods; however, if you love to study human behaviour and want to help people solve their mental struggles, then you can proceed with either field.


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