Psychologist vs Psychiatrist

What is the Difference Between Psychologists and Psychiatrists?

As part of postpartum depression treatment, seeking therapy from a mental health professional may be necessary. Generally speaking, two types of mental health professionals can provide therapy for women suffering from postpartum depression: a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

While they both offer mental health treatment for their patients, their therapy approaches differ. When choosing which type of mental health professional to see for your postpartum depression, it’s important to understand their critical differences.

These differences are in their educational backgrounds and how they treat mental health issues. Additionally, there are other important differences in the limits and abilities of each profession when offering treatment for postpartum depression.


A psychologist is a mental health professional that provides therapy to their patients from a behavioral intervention standpoint. They are not trained medical doctors but rather experts in restoring emotional and mental well-being by assessing possible causes of suffering. Psychologists can do this through several methods and treatment approaches specific to the patient’s needs.


Psychologists attend post-secondary education and must obtain a doctoral degree in psychology (PsyD) or philosophy (PhD). Becoming a psychologist may take four to six years of education.

In school, psychology students study various topics, including behavior, personality development and the history of psychological conditions. Students also focus on the scientific approach to psychological research. Students may conduct research, teach psychology classes or work in clinical settings during their doctoral program.

There are a variety of specializations that psychology students can pursue, including counseling or clinical psychology. Year-long or two-year internships allow psychology students to develop their skills in treatment methods, psychological analysis and testing, psychological theory, and behavioral therapy.

Upon finishing school, psychologists must complete practical work experience with authorized mental health professionals to get licensed.

Treatment Approach

A psychologist approaches the treatment of mental health conditions from a behavioral standpoint. A psychologist examines patterns of behavior that affect a person’s mental and emotional state.

Psychologists are trained to test and analyze their patients to determine the best treatment course. Psychologists provide different therapies depending on the person and type of mental illness they are suffering from.

Psychologists can also work with other professionals, such as psychiatrists, to recommend medications and/or counseling to help with psychotherapy.

Involvement in Treating Postpartum Depression

When treating postpartum depression, psychologists will look at the woman’s symptoms and behavior patterns. They will also help her to notice these symptoms in herself.

From there, psychologists work with their patients to develop coping skills and recognize emotional triggers. This helps patients to minimize postpartum depression symptoms like anxiety and irritability on their own.

Psychologists will use different therapies to treat patients. Cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy are used in milder cases of postpartum depression, while eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) therapy works better in severe cases. These therapy options are designed to help women identify destructive thought patterns and prevent them from worsening, as these patterns bring on distress and anxiety.


A psychiatrist is a mental health professional that provides therapy to their patients from a neurological and biological standpoint. Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors, so their treatment focuses on medication management. Psychiatrists are also trained in many other psychological and social components of mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders.


To become a psychiatrist, a person must have obtained an undergraduate degree in science and an M.D. in general medicine. After graduating with an M.D., they go on to complete a four-year residency in psychiatry.

During residency, psychiatrists typically treat people of all ages who are suffering from mental illnesses. They mainly focus on severe mental illnesses requiring prescription medication and psychotherapy treatment.

After completing residency, psychiatrists then must pass a licensing exam to become accredited and legally practice psychiatry.

Treatment Approach

Because psychiatrists are trained medical doctors, they must distinguish between clinical mental illness and other potential conditions that cause psychological issues.

From there, psychiatrists diagnose and recommend treatment for the patient. Treatment may involve a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Psychiatrists may refer their patients to other mental health professionals to provide counseling and therapy.

Psychiatrists also monitor ongoing physical conditions that may coincide with mental illnesses, such as functions of the kidneys, liver and other organs, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Involvement in Treating Postpartum Depression

Psychiatrists help to treat postpartum depression by assessing symptoms and making a diagnosis. Psychiatrists will often prescribe medications like antidepressants to help mitigate symptoms and improve well-being. Psychiatrists also may provide treatment through psychotherapy and counseling.

Psychiatrists closely monitor their patient’s progress and adjust the treatment course as needed. This includes changing postpartum depression medications if necessary.

While psychologists and psychiatrists are different in their approaches to mental health, they can both provide valuable treatment options for women suffering from postpartum depression. Team
Reviewed by:Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Medical Editor

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kimberly Langdon is a Doctor of Medicine and graduated from The Ohio State University in 1991. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at The Ohio State University Hospitals, Department of OB/GYN. Board-Certified in 1997, she is now retired from clinical practice after a long and successful career. Currently, she is the Founder and Chief Medical Officer of a Medical Device Company that is introducing patented products to treat vaginal microbial infections without the need for drugs. She is an expert in Vaginal Infections, Menstrual disorders, Menopause, and Contraception.

Written by:

Jenna Carberg was diagnosed with postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter in 2016. It was a healthy birth but in the following days, Jenna's mood changed quickly. Doctors suggested that it might be the "baby blues", but her husband Chris suggested she seek a second opinion. Jenna was diagnosed with postpartum depression and began a journey that lasted 9 long months with significant ups and downs. Jenna's mental health care and her experiences became a passion for her to share with the world. She and her husband Chris founded as a support website designed to help women suffering in silence and their loved ones.

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