Should You Choose a Psychiatrist or Psychotherapist?

Should You Choose a Psychiatrist or  Psychotherapist?

Finding a mental health professional can be challenging, as there are so many options to choose from, and it can be confusing to determine which type can meet your needs. 

Many people don’t realize how many different types of mental health providers are available until they start looking for one. There are psychologists, social workers, licensed therapists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, and mental health counselors, just to name a few. The disciplines discussed in this article are two that often get confused; a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist. 

The main differences between a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist


Psychotherapists and psychiatrists both work with clients to treat mental health conditions but handle these issues differently. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who spend several years in residency learning about the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. In most states, they are the only type of mental health professional that can prescribe medication. 

Many psychiatrists become certified in specialty areas, such as forensic psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry,  child and adolescent psychiatry, and addiction psychiatry.

Psychotherapists are trained therapists who use talk therapy to treat people for mental health issues. They use clinical interviews, testing, and psychological evaluations to evaluate a person’s mental health and make a diagnosis. They are also trained to provide individual and group therapy.

Both disciplines have many benefits 


According to the American Psychological Association, around 75% of people who have received psychotherapy treatment say that they’ve benefited from it and indicated that it had improved their ability to function in their daily lives. Psychotherapists and psychiatrists often refer patients to each other, and there are benefits to receiving treatment from each one. 

Talk therapy that psychotherapists provide is especially beneficial to people who suffer from negative thoughts and destructive behaviors such as self-harm, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation. Therapy can help them identify the patterns and teach strategies to manage them, and learn healthy coping mechanisms.


Psychotherapy can also help develop problem-solving skills and empower clients to take personal responsibility for managing their mental health issues. 

Since psychiatrists are medical doctors, they will have training that psychologists don’t have, which sometimes means you will get a quicker diagnosis. Psychiatrists can also admit patients for hospitalization if needed. 

Which is better: a psychiatrist or a psychologist? 



The answer to this question depends on your circumstance and the severity of your mental health condition.  Here are some things to consider if you are trying to decide which type of mental health practitioner would be the best fit for you.


You would benefit from a psychiatrist if: 

  • Your mental health symptoms are so severe that they are interfering with your day-to-day activities.
  • You want to explore taking medication for your mental health issues. 
  • You have long-lasting anxiety or depression that hasn’t been resolved through traditional therapy.
  • You experience delusions or hallucinations.
  • You have uncontrollable substance use issues.
  • You have harmed yourself, have suicidal ideation, or have attempted suicide.


You may want to see a psychotherapist if: 

  • You want to spend time talking about an issue and working through it 
  • Your problem is relationship-focused such as marital troubles or family conflict
  • You have work-related anxiety
  • You’re dealing with significant life changes.
  • You need to learn to manage unhealthy reactions.
  • You’re recovering from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.


Both psychotherapists and psychiatrists can use virtual reality (VR) therapy to work with patients. VR can be adapted to help treat a broad range of mental health issues. Amelia offers VR environments for conditions such as depression, anxiety, several phobias, including the fear of heights, eating disorders, addiction, and more. 

No matter what type of mental health professional you choose, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Finding someone you feel comfortable with and trust is vital to establishing a good relationship and getting the most out of treatment.

If you’re interested in finding out more about VR therapy, access our directory of specialists, and schedule a session with a VR health professional nearby to you.

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