Psychiatry and Psychology

IS a psychologist the same as a psychiatrist? Are psychology and psychiatry the same field and just mere specialisations within or are they ...

IS a psychologist the same as a psychiatrist? Are psychology and psychiatry the same field and just mere specialisations within or are they two diametrically opposite fields that just happen to have the same source word? These are not only commonly asked questions but are also fairly well pondered ones. The confusion rides to such an extent that one tends to develop sympathy for those pursuing either career field, for the sheer number of hours they would be spending at dinner parties and social gatherings answering questions as to what they really do! Well, let’s clarify once and for all. Forward this to all the psychologists and psychiatrists you know, rest assured they will carry it for all the meals they get invited to!

WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGY?

Extensive training in psychology, with specific fields ranging from development psychology, clinical psychology, social psychology, child psychology and abnormal psychology, is a must to be able to become a qualified psychologist. Psychologists are also referred to as therapists or counselors, but these terms are more loosely beginning to be used for more than just trained psychologists. While an individual can take up a Master’s in Psychology in any of the prominent universities in India, the same option is available to those who hold a bachelor’s degree in the field. The master’s degree, typically, has a component of fieldwork attached to it, to make the training practical and ready for implementation.

WHAT IS PSYCHIATRY?

“Sometimes the illness is of an advanced nature, where psychology and therapy oriented treatments do not suffice. Such cases are pathological in nature and need the attention of a doctor as physical tests and medication become an integral part of the treatment, and that’s when a psychiatrist has to step in,” clarifies therapist Binaifer Jesia. In order to become a psychiatrist, one has to go through the rigours of medical school like any other MBBS doctor would. It is only after completion of the same, that doctors pursue higher studies (MD or diploma in psychiatric medicine) . MD in Psychiatry can be pursued at any of the renowned medical colleges across the country, some prominent ones being AIIIMS (Delhi), NIMHANS (Bangalore) and several colleges affiliated to universities such as Bombay University (GS Medical College, TN Nair Medical College) and others. A psychiatrist usually treats patients on a on-on-one basis and is qualified to prescribe medicines and administer therapy for instance, electroconvulsive therapy, also known as shock therapy.

SIMILARITIES:

Even though psychiatry and psychology are different professions, they stem from the same need to treat mental imbalances and illnesses. Both, psychiatrists and psychologists are trained to assess and treat neuropsychological disorders, personality disorders and dysfunctions. However, the methods of treatment are different: while psychiatrists rely on medicines, psychologists rely on psychotherapy and counselling. However, on a caseto-case basis, the appropriate mix of the two changes as every patient has varying degrees of illnesses. Both, psychiatrists and psychologists are trained to treat mental illnesses from mild issues such as insomnia and exam stress to major illnesses such as schizophrenia and mood disorders, albeit using different routes.

DIFFERENCES

Although both streams are dedicated to the same cause and work toward the common objective of bettering a mentally ill individual, there are certain essential differences. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has received extensive medical training and a psychologist has taken training focusing on psychology only and has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and (optionally) a doctorate with a thesis focusing on counselling or clinical psychology. While a psychologist cannot prescribe medicines, she/ he is trained to administer several types of tests, such as IQ tests, aptitude tests and personality assessment tests, which are tools that come in handy for ascertaining the cause of the illness and thus the treatment it requires.

THE SCENARIO TODAY

“Till even a couple of years ago, the scenario and awareness levels about mental illnesses were very limited. There would be families coming with patients, where the patient would sit quietly, the psychiatrist would ask some questions to the family, and based on their responses, would prescribe medicines,” ays Nivedita, a counselor and social worker by profession.“The trend has changed now with more awareness and acceptance developing around mental illnesses and those unfortunate enough to suffer from them. Now, most clinics have multidisciplinary teams, including psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counsellors and not just a single doctor looking to assess a patient. Patients are spoken to, to understand the illness,” she adds. Most treatments are administered with a combination of medicines, which only the psychiatrist is qualified and capable of prescribing, and psychological therapy, which psychologists are trained to do. The patient is communicated with, because, in many cases the patient is able to communicate his/ her feelings to the psychiatrist. In cases where medicines are only solving a temporary matter, while the real issue goes way deeper, psychologists get involved. They try to hold detailed sessions, over a period of time, where they draw out situations from the patient’s past that might be the root cause, or in some cases the trigger to the current illness. In some cases fullfledged psychotherapy with a psychologist is not required, as a couple of sessions with a trained counsellor are enough.

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Higher Study : Psychiatry and Psychology
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