Is the psychologist a doctor?

In this post we are going to answer the question ‘’Is the psychologist a doctor?’’ we will find out if psychologists can be doctors, and what are the differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

Is the psychologist a doctor?

Yes, psychologists are doctors because they have a doctorate in psychology. However, we should not confuse it with medical doctors. Since psychologists do not pursue a degree in medicine.

Sometimes, when you hear the word ”doctor” maybe you’re thinking in doctor of medicine, or M.D. But, s strictly speaking, someone with a doctoral degree is also referred to as a doctor, yes, including psychologists who normally get either a doctorate in Psychology (Ph.D.) or a PhD in Psychology (PsyD).

So yes, a Psychologist or a Lawer can be a doctor, but not one of these who attend to medical school.

And you doctor…? No, I am a psychologist

This is one of the most frequent interactions in mental health services, for this reason I think it is interesting to clarify these terms a bit.

I could start this text with definitions of each discipline, but I don’t think it would be of much help. I will start like this, saying that the psychiatrist, unlike the psychologist, is a medical doctor.

In other words, the psychiatrist is dedicated to the study and treatment of the biological and physiological part of the person that is related to the psyche.

Unlike psychology that on the other hand studies the psyche from its behavioral, emotional, cognitive and relational manifestation.

Another difference is that psychiatry has psychopathology as an element of study, while psychology, apart from its clinical branch, also covers other areas that do not consist of alleviating the suffering of people, such as the psychology of organizations, of the sport, legal psychology, etc.

Training for Psychologists

There is a Ph.D., Psy.D., or EdD for licensed psychologists. Their education  starts with an undergraduate degree (Bachelor in Arts or Bachelor in Sciences), accompanied by further education and training for an average of 6 to 8 years.

Advanced preparation for psychologists requires a supervised residency while receiving a degree, as well as a year of practical experience with supervision.  Specialists must also pass national and state tests in order to becoming a licensed psychologist.

Most Psychologists Cannot Prescribe Medications

Yes, although psychologists are doctors, drugs or procedures like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), may not be prescribed and administered by them.

A psychologist is a professional in the psychological field specialized in the treatment of emotional and behavioral problems.

Therefore, psychology also has a broader scope than psychiatry since it includes the investigation of all elements of the mind, not just mental health.

This means that Psychology studies mental processes in its three dimensions: cognitive, affective and behavioral of the human being.

The psychologist is a professional trained in the understanding of human sensations, perceptions, thought and behavior. Also, a psychologist cannot prescribe drugs and all her work is based on understanding, analysis, help and research.

With techniques and exercises, he rehabilitates behaviors, thoughts or emotions, and modifies all those psychological variables that can influence us in a negative way.

However, there are exceptions to this rule.

The prescription of drugs is a very serious and delicate subject. In the United States, this is an issue that has been discussed for many years and that even gave rise in 1989 to the Psychopharmacology Demonstration Project, which allowed 10 psychologists to train within the army to be able to prescribe.

From this, a graduate program was developed to train psychologists in the specialty of psychopharmacology. Following this line, different schools of psychology in the United States, in collaboration with schools of pharmacy, defined their curricula.

At the same time, the states of New Mexico and Louisiana, as well as the territory of Guam (belonging to the United States) passed laws that allow psychologists with these graduate studies to prescribe.

Right now, more than 50 psychologists are prescribing without incident, and hundreds of other psychologists are pursuing the necessary postgraduate years to obtain the title of “medical psychologist,” a new specialty in psychology.

What Psychologists Do?

Although in most cases, psychologists do not prescribe drugs, they will provide other important resources for mental wellbeing. Registered psychologists are able to identify psychological disorders, conduct assessments and examinations, offer psychotherapy, and more.

Here are the most common functions of a Psychologist:

  • Guide their patients in group or individual sessions, in order to assess their problems and help them deal with different circumstances and conflicts.
  • Interact with other health professionals to discuss therapies, treatments, resources, and therapy techniques, in addition to disseminating occupational information.
  • Provide advisory and guidance services to companies, educational programs and centers, social assistance agencies and the general public.

The Role of Psychiatrists

Rather, a psychiatrist is an MD specialized in psychiatry. This is responsible for treating patients with very serious diseases or disorders or that require a medical prescription.

In fact, psychiatrists are the only ones who can prescribe drugs and they have a very extensive knowledge of the structure of the brain and how it works.

For this reason, these professionals have a biological approach to human behavior, not social or cultural as in the case of the psychologist, and they focus on the physiological and chemical aspects of the human body to treat mental illnesses

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a doctorate in psychology?


They are licensed professionals in medicine. In addition to the 8 years required to train a physician to be considered a psychiatrist, the physician must pass a residency in the area of ​​psychiatry, which comprises another 3 years of practical training.

During this period they carry out internships in areas such as neurology, nursing, medical clinic, psychiatric emergencies, chemical dependency, child psychiatry, among others.

Experience medical practice in specialized outpatient clinics such as schizophrenia, mood disorders, and psychotherapy.

That is, for a professional to obtain a specialized psychiatrist degree, at least 12 years of academic and practical study are required.

They are qualified to perform multiple therapies and prescribe medications. They are, in every sense, medically licensed physicians.

Overall, they have not only passed your medical license but also a specialized board exam in psychiatry. They can function as treating physicians in hospitals or treatment settings.


They are professionals with degrees in psychology, a science that deals with mental states and processes, the behavior of human beings and their interactions with a physical and social environment. The degree in Psychology lasts 4 years, but to practice you will need at least a master’s degree. For psychology, the possible fields of action are:

  • School psychology
  • Organizational and Work Psychology
  • Legal psychology
  • Sports psychology
  • Clinical psychology
  • Psychopedagogy
  • Social psychology
  • Neuropsychology

A doctorate in psychology is the final research degree in the academic field of psychology.

Some people with doctorates in psychology pass the clinical and licensing requirements for treating patients and can do various forms of talk therapy, but cannot prescribe medication. (Some states allow some common medications to be prescribed by psychologists and psychiatric nurses in certain circumstances.)

Not all psychologists treat patients. Many conduct research, or work in business in industrial / organizational roles, work in the court system as forensic psychologists, or use their degree for something beyond treating the patient.

There is also the PsyD degree. This is a terminal degree in psychology that allows the treatment of clinical patients, but it is not a research degree.


When we talk about treatment, there is also a difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Both psychiatrists and psychologists are often trained to practice psychotherapy – talking to their patients about their problems.

However, psychologists are professionals who closely observe human behavior. They will investigate sleep patterns, eating and seeking understanding of negative thoughts that may be causing or contributing to the problem.


Psychiatrists, in turn, have a stronger being in biology and neurochemistry. They are likely to make a diagnosis of exclusion. What does it means in practical terms? It means that before you say that a certain individual has deep depression or not, you will run some tests to make sure that the patient is not deficient in vitamins or hormones.

Imaging, neurological, and psychological tests can be used to aid evaluation of the individual and may require physical and laboratory examinations. After the initial diagnosis is made, they usually prescribe drugs for the treatment and rehabilitation of various mental disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Is the psychologist a doctor?

We could say that in the United States the majority of psychologists are doctors. Since they have a PhD or PsyD, strictly necessary to practice as a clinical psychologist, or at least in most circumstances.

In fact, graduate studies in psychology, including one year of institutional internships and a dissertation, last between 4 to 7 years. While according to the program, the programs stipulate a period of 4 years, this changes according to the ease or difficulty of finding the internship and the time it takes to finish the thesis.

Likewise, the period depends according to the model selected to be professionalized by the student. PhD students, in general, take longer to complete their degree than PsyD students.       

However, they are not medical doctors, since they did not study medicine and are not authorized to prescribe drugs.

FAQS: Is the psychologist a doctor?

Can a psychologist be called a doctor?

Yes, a psychologist can be called a doctor, since they held a doctorate in (PhD) in psychology.

Do psychologists go to medical school?

No, psychologists don’t go to medical school. They go to undergrad school and continue on to doctorate level to finally become psychologists.

Is a psychiatrist a doctor?

Yes, psychiatrists go to med school. 

Should I see a psychiatrist or a psychologist?

Compared to a doctor, the most noticeable difference is that a psychiatrist is permitted to administer drugs, and has not had as much experience in communication skills as a psychologist. 

A psychiatrist will therefore prescribe medication and will use medication as therapy more easily than a counselor will.

Is Psychology a good career?

Psychology is a good career as it has multiple fields of application and you have the satisfaction of helping others. However, it is not the best paying career and there is a lot of competition, in addition to that you will have to invest many years of study to be able to exercise

In this post we answered the question ‘’Is the psychologist a doctor?’’ we found out if psychologists can be doctors, and what are the differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


Psychiatrists and psychologists: what’s the difference? (2016). Retrieved November 11, 2020, from RANZCP website:

Is a Psychologist Considered a Doctor? Retrieved November 11, 2020, from Verywell Mind website: