Skip to main content

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and psychologist?

Both of these mental health providers can assess, diagnose, and treat mental health challenges and disorders.

Some key differences:

  • A psychiatrist can prescribe medications to help people manage their mental illnesses. A psychologist cannot.
  • Psychiatrists are doctors. They have a medical degree, MD. Registered Psychologists are mental health professionals. They have advanced training at the doctoral level and belong to the BC Psychological Association.
  • Psychiatrists don't usually provide a long-term therapy or counselling. Other mental health providers including psychologists deliver most of the therapy, helping people understand and change their thoughts, feelings, or behaviours.
  • Visits with a psychiatrist are free and covered by the BC Medical Service Plan. There is usually a fee for appointments with a psychologist. Extended health and benefit plans may cover some fees – ask your insurance provider. There may be low-cost options in your area as well.
  • In order to see a psychiatrist, you will need a referral from a doctor (family doctor, pediatrician, or mental health professional). We understand that it can be challenging to see a psychiatrist and often the wait lists can be very long. Talk to your doctor about your options.

Featured Resource:

Understanding Child and Youth Psychiatric Care in BC (CYMHSU Collaborative)

Was this information helpful?

Is this helpful?
Where You Are Podcast

Through real stories, expertise, and practical tips, this podcast helps families promote their mental health and wellness, navigating important topics to meet you where you are in your journey.