Psychologist vs Psychiatrist

What’s the Difference between Psychologists and Psychiatrists?

As part of postpartum depression treatment, it may be necessary to seek therapy from a mental health professional. Generally speaking, there are two types of mental health professionals who can provide therapy to help treat women suffering from postpartum depression: a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

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

These differences are in their education backgrounds and treatment approaches to addressing mental health issues. Additionally, there are also important differences in the limits and abilities that each profession has when it comes to 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 are rather experts in how to restore the emotional and mental wellbeing of individuals by assessing the possible causes of suffering. Psychologists can do this through a number of different modalities and treatment approaches that are specific to the individual patient’s needs.


Psychologists attend post-secondary education and must obtain a doctoral degree in psychology (PsyD) or a PhD. It may take between 4 and 6 years to complete the required education to become a psychologist.

In school, psychology students study a variety of topics including behavior, personality development and the history of psychological conditions. Students also focus on the scientific approach to psychological research. Students may continue to 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. A 1-2 year internship gives psychology students the opportunity to develop their skills in treatment methods, psychological analysis and testing, psychological theory, and behavioral therapy.

Upon finishing school psychologists then go on to become licensed after completing practical work experience with authorized mental health professionals.

Treatment Approach

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

Psychologists are trained to perform psychological testing and analysis of their patients in order to determine the best treatment course. There are a number of therapy types that psychologists provide that depend entirely on the individual and the type of mental illness they are suffering from.

Psychologists can also work with other mental health professionals such as psychiatrists to recommend prescriptions medications in conjunction with psychotherapy or counseling.

Involvement in Treating Postpartum Depression

When it comes to their involvement in treating postpartum depression, psychologists will look at the woman’s patterns of behavior and her anxiety and depression levels and help her to notice these symptoms in herself.

From there, psychologists work with their patients to help develop coping skills and recognize emotional triggers so that they can help minimize postpartum depression symptoms such as anxiety and irritability on their own.

Psychologists may pursue a number of therapy options from cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy, to EMDR therapy or treatments for severe postpartum depression types. These therapy options are designed to help women identify their destructive thought patterns in an effort to prevent them from worsening their distress and anxiety associated with postpartum depression.


A psychiatrist is a mental health professional that provides therapy to their patients from a neurological and biological standpoint. Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors and so the focus of their treatment is through medication management. Psychiatrists are also highly 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 have gone on to complete four years of medical school where they obtain an M.D. in general medicine. After graduating with an M.D., they then go on to complete a four-year residency in psychiatry.

During residency, psychiatrists typically work in the psychiatric unit of a hospital helping to treat people of all ages suffering from a variety of mental illnesses. Much of their focus tends to be on severe mental illnesses that require treatment through prescription medication and various psychotherapy modalities.

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

Treatment Approach

Because psychiatrists are trained medical doctors, their approach to treating mental disorders is to distinguish between clinical mental illness and other potential underlying medical conditions that cause psychological symptoms.

From there, psychiatrists determine a diagnosis and recommend a treatment course that may involve a combination of prescription medications and psychotherapy. Psychiatrists may also refer their patients to another mental health professional to provide ongoing counseling and therapy.

From a medical standpoint, psychiatrists also monitor ongoing physical conditions that may coincide with mental illnesses such as blood pressure or blood sugar levels as well as kidney, liver and other organ functions.

Involvement in Treating Postpartum Depression

Psychiatrists help to treat postpartum depression by assessing symptoms and making a medical diagnosis on this mental condition. From there, psychiatrists will often prescribe medications such as antidepressants to help mitigate postpartum depression symptoms and improve wellbeing. Psychiatrists also may provide treatment for postpartum depression through psychotherapy and counseling.

Psychiatrists will also closely monitor their patient’s progress to adjust the treatment course as needed including 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.