When describing health professionals working within mental health and wellbeing, both the terms psychologist and psychiatrist are often used interchangeably in Malta. However, it is important to note the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists are both in terms of treatments provided and the conditions treated.

They do on the other hand work closely together for the well-being of people, and therefore their areas of expertise often overlap. The most crucial difference between the two professions is the nature of the treatment being given.

The Difference Between Psychiatrists And Psychologists

Because psychiatrists and psychologists understand how the brain, emotions and feelings work, they could both treat mental illnesses with psychotherapy (conversing therapies).

However, because psychiatrists are trained medical doctors before specialising in mental health, they can prescribe medication. Psychologists are not medical doctors and thus do not treat mental illnesses from a clinical perspective. Instead, they are specialised in treating behavioural problems though conversing techniques.

Although both professions overlap each other to a certain extent, their specialisation differs from each other mainly between:

  • Their education
  • Treatments provided
  • Conditions treated
  • Getting appointments

After seeing a doctor or general practitioner, a referral is made to either a phycologist or psychiatrist. For example, if the patient is regularly seeing a phycologist for behavioural treatment, the patient may be referred to a psychiatrist who can prescribe and monitor medication treatment. They often work in tandem to treat symptoms from a clinical and behavioural standpoint.

Treatments Provided And Conditions Treated

The approach to the patient treatment often depends on the severity of the symptoms, their condition and the needs and wishes of the patient. Patient wishes differ from preferring only psychotherapy alone or in combination with medication. Therefore the professionals they need to see is dependent on the approach to the treatment.

Psychiatrists are able to provide a wide variety of treatments. They are able to prescribe medication, assess your general physical health and the effects of medication, psychological treatments and brain stimulation therapies. Psychologists focus on providing physiological treatments only.

Similarly, the conditions treated differ between the two depending on the patients medical, psychological and social needs. Psychiatrists can treat conditions such as severe depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Psychologists, on the other hand, are more likely to treat people who suffer from depression, anxiety or general behavioural problems and learning difficulties.

How To Choose Which Help You Need

Although it is advised to first consult with your primary physician or general practitioner, you can request to be assessed privately by a psychologist or a psychiatrist. In order to make use of the public health system, a referral from your GP is required.