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What is the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?

Stephen M. Raffle, M.D.

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Curriculum Vitae

By Stephen M. Raffle, M.D.

I have explained the training of a psychiatrist in the FAQ “What is a Psychiatrist?” A psychologist has not attended medical school and does not possess medical expertise. Psychology is the study of mental (emotional) behavior. A psychologist is a person skilled in understanding mental (vs. physical) phenomenon. In California, a psychologist is a non-medical practitioner of the mental healing arts who is licensed by the state to perform those arts.

In order to be eligible to sit for the licensing examination in psychology, the candidate must have completed a Ph.D., Ed.D., or Psy.D. in psychology and been supervised for 3000 post-doctoral clinical hours by a California licensed psychologist, of which 1500 hours may be supervised by a Board-Certified Psychiatrist.

The curriculum for the study of psychology may emphasize administering psychological testing, scoring and interpreting test results, as well as course work and supervised treatment of patients (usually both inpatients and outpatients). Psychodynamics are taught as well as other theoretical models of psychopathology and therapy. Competence in neurology is not required, nor is psychopharmacology inasmuch as psychologists are not licensed to prescribe medications. Psychologists generally are not expected to diagnose medical conditions which are causing mental illness because of the scope of their training, nor the effects of drug interactions on behavior.

The Ph.D. requires a research dissertation. After the completion of the Ph.D. some psychologists obtain additional training in neuropsychology which involves the diagnoses of brain dysfunction using neuropsychological tests and the use of neurocognitive rehabilitation therapy in patients who have brain damage.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not constitute legal or medical advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel or physician for the most current information and to obtain professional legal advice or medical advice before acting on any of the information presented.

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