Often, people will confuse a psychologist and a psychiatrist because of the similar functions they perform and their similar spellings; both medical professions help patients cope with mental health issues and offer varying treatment options based on the severity of the issues presented. Both a psychologist and a psychiatrist – many patients use both at a time – can help a patient deal with issues that arise in everyday life due to mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other phobias.

What Does a Psychologist Do?

Psychologists are highly-trained medical professionals that help people deal with mental health ailments; by using a variety of techniques, they can help a patient learn how to cope with stressful situations, unwanted thoughts, face their addictions, break past psychological barriers, and manage the pain that may come from chronic illnesses. Psychologists are also trained to diagnose a patient; diagnoses can range from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder, to PTSD, post-partum depression, and more. Based on the diagnoses, a psychologist can then decide which line of treatment will work best for the patient.


A psychologist with a doctoral degree, such as an EdD, PhD, or PsyD, receives one of the most strenuous and highest levels of higher education possible for health care professionals, averaging 7-8 years in education, training, and licensing tests. Whether it is short-term help, such as processing the loss of a family member or relationship, or longer-term care, such as managing treatment-resistant depression, a psychologist uses evidence-based treatment such as talk therapy, psychotherapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy to help a patient cope with the stresses of life.

If a psychologist diagnoses a patient with a mental health disorder that requires medications, such as schizophrenia, they will work with another mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, to further assist the patient. Since a psychologist does not meet the medical definition of a “physician”, a psychiatrist is needed to order medical and lab tests. Only 3 states currently allow a psychologist to prescribe pharmaceutical medication: New Mexico, Louisiana, and Illinois.

What Does a Psychiatrist Do?

Much like a psychologist, a psychiatrist can diagnose and treat a patient for possible mental health disorders. Since they are medical doctors (an M.D. or D.O.), they are qualified to assess physical and mental aspects of psychological issues in patients. This means that they can prescribe medication, order blood tests and other laboratory tests, and other therapies such as talk therapy. If a psychiatrist does not specialize in talk therapy, they will refer a patient to a psychologist. Since many patients have a dual-diagnosis (such as depression and anxiety, or depression and substance-abuse), psychiatrists will often prescribe medication and refer them to a psychologist who specializes in a certain area of expertise, such as substance abuse disorders or working through post-traumatic stress.

A psychiatrist must complete medical school, pass an examination, complete four years of psychiatry residency, and then spend an additional three years learning the diagnosis and treatment procedures for a variety of mental illnesses. When all is said and done, it takes roughly 8-10 years to become a fully-certified, practicing psychiatrist.

Remote Billing for Psychologists and Psychiatrists

At The Psych Biller, we provide remote medical billing for mental health professionals across the country. We work with medical professionals and mental health professionals. We provide full-time billing office support, remote billing services, cost-effective HIPAA-compliant billing, and insurance verification. To learn more about our services, give us a call at (800) 955-3461.