What Is The Difference Between A Therapist And A Psychiatrist?

Choosing the best mental health professional between a psychiatrist and a therapist can be difficult because they offer similar services. To help you out, this article will explain the differences between both roles and what to look for in a potential provider.

What Is A Psychiatrist?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has undergone extensive training to provide therapy and prescribe medication. These professionals will ask questions about your situation, screen for symptoms, and potentially conduct tests so they can review your physical and mental health.

What Is A Therapist?

The American Psychological Association defines a therapist as a licensed mental health professional who offers therapy. Usually, therapists do not have the authority to prescribe medication.

What Is The Difference?

Psychiatrists are doctors with medical degrees such as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) or a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. They also receive at least 12 years of postsecondary training and education. This includes medical school, a state licensure exam, and a four-year residency program.

On the other hand, therapists are licensed professionals who can provide therapy and other treatments for addressing mental health issues. They also have a master’s degree and have completed supervised training, allowing them to be licensed practitioners.

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Mental Health Professional

When searching for the right mental health professional, these are some factors to keep in mind:

Type of Provider

According to a study published in December 2021 in The American Journal of Psychiatry, an increasing number of psychiatrists only offer medication management. However, they can refer you to a therapist for your mental well-being. You need to be sure about the specifics provided by each specialist before making your choice.

Meeting Times

You need to choose a meeting time that is convenient for you and gives you time to recharge after a potentially challenging session.


According to the American Psychological Association, there is a shortage of mental health professionals and a growing waitlist. To make your search easier, you must filter your search to see only providers open to new clients.


When considering whether you should reach out to a therapist or psychiatrist, the primary difference is that psychiatrists can prescribe medications while therapists generally cannot. Regardless of what path you choose, be sure to go with a mental health care team that is trustworthy and properly trained.