Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist vs. Therapist: Different Types of Mental Health Professionals

When you realize you need help to overcome your challenges with mental health, you may be overwhelmed by the different types of mental health professionals you can choose from. But what are the real differences between a psychologist vs. a therapist, a social worker, and a psychiatrist? These professionals provide mental health services, but important distinctions exist in their scope of practice and specializations.


A medical doctor who does additional training to specialize in mental health is a psychiatrist.¹ Their education and training equip them to prescribe medications and deliver talk therapy and other mental health services.

Psychiatrists are a few mental health professionals who can prescribe psychiatric medications. As such, they often work closely with psychologists, therapists, social workers, and other mental health workers who deliver behavioral services.

In addition to their ability to prescribe medicine, a psychiatrist is trained in diagnosing mental health disorders and can deliver detailed mental health assessments and psychological testing.


Psychologists are doctoral-level professionals who study the human mind.2 The term psychologist refers to professionals with a broad range of specializations, including:

  1. Clinical psychologists
  2. Educational psychologists
  3. Industrial-organizational psychologists
  4. Social psychologists
  5. Counseling psychologists

In terms of mental health services, clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists have the most training in delivering talk therapy and providing diagnoses for mental health disorders. Educational, social, and industrial-organizational psychologists focus more on academic research.

Psychologists can prescribe psychiatric medications in some states if they receive specialized training. But for the most part, psychologists focus on providing talk therapy, diagnosing mental illness, and treating mental health disorders.

Many psychologists will have specific specializations. For example, a counseling psychologist may focus on helping people who have lived through traumatic experiences. Other psychologists may specialize in treating certain disorders, such as borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia.

The distinction between a psychologist vs. therapist is less clear. A psychologist can deliver talk therapy and rightly holds the title of therapist. But not all therapists are necessarily psychologists, as delivering therapy only requires a master’s level education.


The term therapist covers a broad range of diverse mental health professionals. This includes job titles such as:

  • Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC)
  • Licensed Social Workers (LSW)
  • Drug and Alcohol Counselors
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists

A therapist describes anyone who has specialized training in delivering talk therapy. For the most part, therapists have master’s level degrees.

Therapists focus primarily on meeting with their clients and talking about their challenges. They deliver specialized treatments to help their clients cope with various mental illnesses and emotional concerns. The treatments therapists use include:

In addition, many therapists can diagnose mental health disorders.

Which Provider Is Right for Me?

Determining whether you need to meet a psychologist vs. a therapist vs. a psychiatrist depends on your unique situation. Yet often, people who are struggling with their mental health aren’t sure what type of help they need to recover.

One effective strategy is to reach out to a mental health IOP in Scottsdale to speak to mental health experts. In a specialized mental health program, a team of clinicians, therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists work together to build the ideal treatment plan for each client.

People living with depression, for instance, can benefit from working with both a psychiatrist and a therapist. While medication and talk therapy are beneficial on their own, scientific studies have demonstrated that combination therapy is often the most effective treatment for this disorder.3

What Is IOP?

IOP stands for an intensive outpatient program. Starting a mental health IOP in Scottsdale means you’ll attend mental health treatment for intensive therapies and treatments a few days a week.

When you first begin treatment, you’ll undergo a thorough mental health assessment and diagnostic testing to determine the best possible treatment plan for your needs. Afterward, the IOP program will provide these targeted services and set you on the path to recovery.

Start a Mental Health IOP in Scottsdale, AZ, Today

At Healing Foundations Center, our team is dedicated to helping people overcome mental health challenges and improve their quality of life. Our mental health IOP in Scottsdale, AZ, provides the best evidence-based therapies to help people manage the symptoms of a wide range of mental health disorders and build better, healthier lives for themselves in the future.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team. From the moment you call, we’ll be there to help you on your path to recovery.