Mar 20, 2023 by Foresight

Psychiatry Vs Psychology - Knowing who you need and when…

‘What’s the difference between psychiatry and psychology’ is a commonly asked question as the two fields are often talked about in a similar context. Although both deal with and help treat mental health conditions, there are, in fact, several fundamental differences between the two.

What is psychiatry?

Psychiatry deals with the diagnosis of illness and the management treatment which often includes prescribed medication. Psychiatrists are medically qualified doctors who have studied medicine and specialise in psychiatry. A psychiatrist in the UK trains for about 10 years which includes a 5-year degree in medicine and 3 years of core training in psychiatry.

When would someone need a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists work with patients with a broad range of mental health conditions including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, addiction, anxiety, and panic attacks.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a psychiatrist would need to be involved in a patient’s case when there is “a mental disorder, or possibility of a mental disorder” as well as one or more of the below factors being present:

  • Uncertainty about diagnosis and formulation.
  • The nature of the mental disorder requires psychiatric care, including all cases of psychosis, complex disorders, severe disorders and disorders that are not resolving.
  • Risk to self or others.
  • Poor engagement with service or abnormal illness behaviour.
  • A need to respond authoritatively to another agency.
  • Complex psychopharmacology is required or being prescribed.
  • Patients who have mixed diagnoses, for example mental disorder and substance misuse, mental and physical health problems or mental illness in the context of personality disorder.

What is psychology?

Psychology is the study of people and human behaviour including “how they think, how they act, react and interact.” A psychologist explores how people think and feel, and what drives them to behave in certain ways. A psychologist is not permitted to prescribe medication and helps treat patients using techniques such as talking therapies.

When would someone need a psychologist?

Like a psychiatrist, a psychologist can also work with people suffering from a wide range of mental health conditions and will help patients to understand their behaviours and identify triggers or life problems that may contribute to their condition. Psychologists use a variety of techniques to evaluate and treat mental health disorders, including talking therapy, CBT, and behavior modification techniques such as hypnotherapy.

Psychologists tend to work with individuals to help them cope with one or more of the following:

  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Grief
  • Upsetting health conditions (such as infertility or terminal illness)
  • A relationship breakdown
  • Low self esteem
  • Eating disorders
  • Addiction

What are the main differences between psychiatry and psychology?

The main difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication alongside other forms of treatment. Both involve the study and treatment of mental illness, but they differ in their approach, training, and scope of practice.

Another key difference between psychiatry and psychology is their focus on different aspects of mental health. Psychiatry often focusses more on the biological and medical aspects of mental illness, including the role of genetics, brain chemistry, and other physical factors whereas psychologists tend to focus more on the psychological and environmental factors that contribute to mental health conditions, such as childhood experiences, social support, and life stressors.

When would you need a psychiatric expert witness?

A psychiatrist expert witness can help analyse cognitive and behavioural processes and can often establish mental capacity and help the court determine if a subject is fit to plead. Their expertise can answer questions that can be instrumental in a criminal, family, or immigration case to answer questions such as:

  • Have they suffered psychological harm?
  • Do they suffer from a mental illness?
  • How has substance abuse affected behaviour?

Psychiatric reports are an essential component to these kinds of cases – and with access to our expansive panel, Foresight will be able to source the perfect expert witness for your case.

When would you need a psychology expert witness?

Psychologists provide the vital information needed for your case that only a specialist can deliver. The role of a psychology expert witness could be to:

  • Assess the mental state of a suspect or defendant.
  • Assess the cognitive abilities and capacity of a client.
  • Assess areas of violence, substance abuse etc.

We’re incredibly proud to offer an extensive network of the UK’s leading accredited psychology expert witnesses, providing everything from family psychological assessments and cognitive assessments to ADHD and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and substance misuse reports. Our Psychology experts are all thoroughly trained, appropriately qualified and highly experienced.

Whether you need a psychiatrist or a psychologist, Foresight can help. Click here to get in touch with our team today for more information about any of our expert witness services.



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