Psychiatrist or psychologist? Who do I deal with? What is the difference between one and the other?
I intend this article to be a short, to the point article that answers, no more and no less, the title question. So I will just focus on the difference between the two professionals, which in my opinion is the most important and the most significant.
How to choose between psychologist or psychiatrist?
The fundamental difference lies in the tools that the two professionals use to resolve the problem presented by the patient.
The psychiatrist’s main tool is the psychotropic drug, by which he seeks to induce changes in the chemistry of the brain, which in turn results in improvement or relief of the symptoms that plague the person.
In addition, the psychologist’s main tool is the personal resources available to the patient who consults him. this professional pursues the same objective as the psychiatrist, but by appealing to the strengths and capacities of the person to effect changes in the way they think and behave.
But … what is better?
The answer is: both. As we saw above, they are not opposing approaches, but complementaryAnd there is considerable evidence that mixed treatments (combining the two approaches) are more generally effective for a wide range of disorders.
The dichotomy or rivalry between psychiatrists and psychologists is a myth. With a few exceptions, they both want the same for the patient and work together to achieve that goal.
While the psychiatrist goes “from the inside out” (from the brain to behavior), the psychologist goes “from the outside to the inside” (from the behavior to the brain). These are two sides of the same coin.
Maybe the reading friend is thinking, “But how can a psychologist make structural changes in the patient’s brain? Don’t fuck me, it’s only possible with psychotropic medication!” If so, be aware that the brain is constantly changing throughout our lives; in fact, it is life itself that makes it change.
When we learn to play the violin, our brains change. When we learn a new language, our brains change. When our partner leaves us for another, our brains change. When the neighbor insults us for playing very loud music, our brains change.
And I speak very seriously, without metaphors or exaggerations. Thanks to the high permeability and the ability of the human brain to change and adapt to daily experiences and the demands of the environment, we have become the dominant species on the planet. So you know that a psychologist can do a lot for you in this regard.
Beyond psychotropic drugs
In line with the above, you should also know that while medication can be of great benefit, there is one thing you cannot do for yourself: resolve conflicts that affect the lottery of life.
There are no pills that help us reconcile with a brother with whom we are at enmity, for example. Or that they help us choose a career to study. Or any other problem inherent in life itself that we need to solve.
Psychotherapy helps us think about what we want for ourselves and take the necessary steps to get there. No drug has yet been invented to which we can delegate these matters.
Finally, I leave you with this question: What do you need if you want to learn to play the piano? The obvious answer is: a piano and a piano teacher. Well, the medication prescribed by the psychiatrist is the piano in this beautiful metaphor; and the psychologist is the teacher who teaches him to touch it.