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Psychiatrists, Psychologists ...
What is the difference?

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

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) is a Waratah Supporter of depressioNet and they have provided some more information about psychologists and how they can help, on our depressioNet APS page. You can also visit their web site at http://www.psychsociety.com.au

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


Psychiatrists actually study medicine first before they go on to 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 in a Masters degree. There is then additional training required to become specialise in different areas, such as Clinical Psychology (which is most relevant for depression sufferers) and to become members of certain 'colleges'


Psychiatrists in Australia can prescribe medication, due to the fact that they have studied medicine, whereas Psychologists cannot. Psychologists will usually request the assistance of a GP if a patient requires medication.


Psychologists have specific training in counselling and various forms of therapy and are able to work with clients to help with problems like depression, relationship breakdowns and grief.
There are many strategies that a psychologist can teach clients that help in dealing effectively with illnesses such as depression. They also can look at any underlying issues that may be causing or worsening the depression and work with clients 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 is always needed to visit a Psychiatrist, whereas you only need a referral to see a Psychologist under certain circumstances, e.g., to obtain a Medicare rebate you need to be referred by a GP under the Medicare Allied Health services program for patients with a chronic condition.

Additional information about what services are covered by Medicare and the associated rebates, can be found on the Medicare website.


Your feedback and input will be greatly appreciated.

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