What is the difference between psychologists & psychiatrists?

A lot of people have asked us to explain the difference between Psychologists and Psychiatrists, so here is a brief overview …


The first and most easily definable difference is the amount and type of study that each do.

Psychiatrists actually study medicine first before they study the mind specifically for a further five years.

Psychologists study for four years and then do a further two years training. 

To satisfy requirements for APS membership, psychologists must complete at least two years post-graduate study, such as a Masters degree. There is then additional training required to become specialised in different areas, such as Clinical Psychology (which is most relevant for depression sufferers).


Psychiatrists in Australia can prescribe medication, due to the fact that they have studied medicine, whereas Psychologists cannot.  Psychologists work in partnership with a GP or psychiatrist if medication is needed.


Psychologists have specific training in counselling and various forms of therapy that have been proven to be very effective in, treating depression and / or anxiety, managing it on an ongoing basis and preventing further episodes. 

There are many strategies that a psychologist can teach you that help in dealing effectively with illnesses such as depression and anxiety. They also can look at any underlying issues that may be causing or worsening the condition and work with you to address these and develop new and more constructive patterns of thinking and behaving that can make a significant difference.

While Psychiatrists are medical doctors first, many (but not all) have the same skills in counselling and talk therapy as psychologists. These psychiatrists have also done additional study and training in these skills. It is worth checking this out first if you are wanting someone who can help in this area.  


A referral from your GP is always needed to visit a Psychiatrist, whereas you only need a referral to see a Psychologist under certain circumstances.  For example to obtain a Medicare rebate you need to be referred by a GP.  Click here for more information on medicare rebates.