Posted by: Student | 2008-10-30

Psychiatric education and skills

Dear Doc,

I know this isn' t a medical question but if you have spare time I would greatly appreciate your help. I' m a student and I aspire to be a psyciatrist/psychologist one day. I know the difference between the two and also the big education differences. The question I have is can a psychiatrist do everything that a psychologist can? I know they focus on different types of treatment but is it possible for a psychiatrist to do all the tests and therapy that a psychologist can? Basically, if a psychiatrist chooses so, can he have all the training and skills of a psychologist? I am struggling choosing the best choice for my career since I wish to be able to treat a patient medically and also just as effective psychologically. I am looking for both in the choice I make. Thank you for your time.

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Our expert says:
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jcat, typically, is well informed and thorough here ! Much is acually up to the individual and their choice of training and practice options. GOod training in psychotherapies isn't always easy to get, but an enterprizing psychiatrist can take such training and offer such treatments in addition to medications ; a psychologist is obviously more likely to take such training, as he/she CAN'T offer medication options. Psychiatrists may also use most psych tests, at least those that are widely effective. Some of the classic psychological tests are acrtually neither especially valid or useful. There is nothing to limit a psychiatrist from adding any or all of the training options and treatment options a psychologist has.
I share your feelings, and that is whay I personally chose Psychiatry --- I wanted to be a "real" doctor able to udnerstand the complexities of physical illness as well as psych illnesses ; and didn't think a body stopped being interesting either above or below the neck !

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Our users say:
Posted by: Student | 2008-10-31

Thanks for the advice. I also feel I would like to understand the body as a whole in all its aspects, thats why medicine seems like the best option with the most options and flexibility. I' ll try my best for medschool then. i know the spaces are few but i' ll just do my best, otherwise psychology would be the second choice for me. Thank you.

Reply to Student
Posted by: jcat | 2008-10-31

Hi Student,

- weirdly enough, SA seems to be more understanding of an overlap between psychologist and psychiatrist than many other countries.

First and foremost though, the difference is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor, who ha gone through the full medical school bit, and who has then chosen to spend another couple of years studying for a speciality in psychiatry. As such, he/she has all the training and skill of any other doctor, plus more knowledge of psych issues.

A psychologist, on the other hand, is generally someone with a BA, who because of similar interests as a psychiatrist, has gone on to do their BA (Hons) and MA in psych subjects. They don' t have the medical background, and cannot prescribe medications.

If you have the academic skills, and the stamina and the financial support needed to obtain a medical degree before you even start on a speciality, then, of course, psychiatry can offer you far more, especially in South Africa.

Although as a country we are woefully underserved in terms of mental health specialists, there is also far more scope for someone who wants to cross-specialise in both medical and therapeutic issues. In fact, most SA psychiatrists offer far more in terms of therapy and psych testing than anywhere else in the world. There seems to be a bit more leeway in what the medical aids will pay for - for now - in that very few psychiatrists do meds only appts, and far more include some therapy, as opposed to most Western countries where the split is very distinct between a 10/15 min meds check, or a 30/ 60 min med check with therapy. Of the 3 psychiatrists that I have seen, all have offered either partial or comprehensive therapy in addition to medical management. Only my current pdoc actually prefers to work in concert with a psychologist rather than filling both roles himself - and I reckon thats mostly cos he doesn' t like people crying on his desk :-))

So - if you have the interest and the support, psychiatry would be far preferable for you, in that you would be able to offer the full range of mental health services, limited only by the time and financial recoupment available.

Good luck with your choice and your studies.


Reply to jcat
Posted by: Anonym | 2008-10-30

A psyciatrist could do a psychologist work and are higher eduacated cause they could prescribe meds as appose to psychologist.

Reply to Anonym

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