Psychotherapy, psychology and psychiatry

Q. I am very confused, what is the difference between psychotherapy, psychology and psychiatry?

A. Psychotherapists, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists have all had professional training to help people with mental health issues but there are significant differences among the three disciplines.

Psychiatry is a medical speciality. It is the study of mental disorders, their diagnosis and management. It often but not always involves the prescription of medication.

Psychology is the study of how the mind works, and how people act and interact. A clinical Psychologist will have a degree in psychology.

Psychotherapy supports people at times of emotional distress or crisis. There are different approaches in psychotherapy which include:

  • cognitive behavioural therapies
  • psychoanalytic therapies
  • psychodynamic therapies
  • systemic and family psychotherapy
  • arts and play therapies
  • humanistic and integrative psychotherapies
  • hypno-psychotherapy
  • experiential constructivist therapies

A psychotherapist may have undertaken intensive and specialised training in the area, or may come from a psychology or psychiatry background and have undertaken further training in psychotherapy.