Difference Between Psychiatrist & Psychotherapist

Psychiatrists and psychotherapists are caregivers for those who may be dealing with mental disorders. This article has information about the differences between these two careers as well as some other vital information.

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Comparing Psychiatrists to Psychotherapist

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who meet and talk with clients to determine possible mental disorders which may have a medical cause. Psychiatrists can be psychotherapists but the majority of psychotherapists do not possess a medical degree. Psychotherapists meet with clients, families or groups to work on traumatic or mental issues that are affecting a person's ability to function normally, which are similar duties performed by psychiatrists. However, since psychiatrists are medical doctors they can prescribe medication, which is beyond the capacity of a non-medical doctors and most psychotherapists. Below is a comparison of these two therapy professions as well as financial information about both.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary* (2017) Job Growth* (2014-2024)
Psychiatrists Medical Doctorate $194,740 15%
Psychotherapists Master's Degree $42,840 (for mental health counselors) 20% (mental health counselors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Psychiatrists vs. Psychotherapists

Psychiatrists and psychotherapists both work with patients to discuss and treat mental disorders. Both listen to and counsel men and women about these issues, however, both handle these issues in different ways. Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors who typically look for medical reasons causing a patient's discomfort. Psychotherapists are not doctors but are trained therapists who work with people to recognize previous issues in a client's life that may be causing their problems and utilize a variety of therapies to resolve those issues.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can be found in private practices as well as on staff at hospitals. Psychiatrists look for medical reasons causing or correlating with mental disorders. They will take medical histories, run tests, and make diagnoses for their patients. As medical doctors, they are able to prescribe medications or provide special treatments. They monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment process and make adjustments accordingly. At times, they will recommend that their patients see psychologists for private sessions and other possible therapy treatments.

Job responsibilities of a psychiatrist include:

  • Managing multiple cases and records
  • Collaborating with other medical and therapeutic professionals
  • Diagnosing possible and probable mental disorders
  • Administering, directing, and evaluating treatments


Psychotherapists are practitioners of various therapy programs such as cognitive behavioral, humanistic and integrative therapies. They must be empathetic in their work with their patients to determine the best methods for coping with disorders that have stalled a patient's normal functioning, such as depression or anxiety. Psychotherapists compile patient medical histories to help determine if a patient may need individual or group therapy. They also analyze their sessions with patients to decide if outside help like medication or other therapists may be more appropriate, and then make recommendations based on their findings.

Job responsibilities of a psychotherapist include:

  • Listening closely during patient or group sessions
  • Communicating with clients and family members
  • Collaborating with medical personnel or other therapists
  • Scheduling individual and group sessions for clients

Related Careers

Psychiatrists who have a medical background could consider becoming a practicing physician diagnosing illnesses beyond mental health. Psychotherapists might consider becoming a physician assistant working with doctors diagnosing medical problems and treating certain traumas.

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