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Mental Health

The Difference Between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist

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Outside the medical profession, there is confusion about the difference between psychologists and psychiatrists. Both are doctors trained to assess, diagnose and care for behavioral, emotional and developmental disorders - but there are some significant differences.

What is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist has an M.D. (medical degree), will have graduated from medical school, completed a medical internship, done three years of residency in adult psychiatry and two years of additional training in child and adolescent psychiatry if they work with children. Because of their training, psychiatrists have a deep understanding of a person’s brain chemistry and as medical doctors, they can prescribe medications if the treatment calls for it.

What is a Psychologist?

Psychologists have doctoral degrees (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) and will have completed over four years of graduate school, a clinical internship and a specialized fellowship. Because of their extensive training, psychologists can provide a behavior-based approach to care using various therapeutic techniques, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Additionally, psychologists also have extensive training in psychometric assessment or testing for IQ and learning disabilities. 

Conditions Our Specialists Treat

At Children’s National Hospital there is actually a lot of overlap between the services provided by our psychiatrists and psychologists. In fact, many treatment plans involve both types of doctors.

Our psychiatrists and psychologists treat a variety of conditions, including:

Contact Us

For more information or to make an appointment, call our Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at 202-476-5980 or our Division of Psychology and Behavioral Health at 202-476-5995. If you are unsure about who to contact, speak to your primary care doctor or call either number - we will be happy to direct you to the care your child needs.