"My doctor told me I should see a therapist. Is there a difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist?"
In all the years that I have been a therapist, this is probably the question that I have been asked more than any other. If you thought that the decision to seek therapy was difficult, deciding which type of therapist to see can be ridiculously confusing.
I will start with the basics. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in psychological disorders. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication and can also do talk therapy. Typically most psychiatrists just prescribe medication and work as part of a team with the therapist who providing the talk therapy.
A therapist is not a medical doctor and they cannot prescribe medication. A therapist focuses on providing psychotherapy (talk therapy) to their clients. The term “therapist” is used as an umbrella term as is “psychotherapist.” Under the umbrella of “therapist” falls many different titles and licenses of professionals who perform basically the same service: psychotherapy. A few examples are: psychologist, marriage and family therapist, social worker and licensed professional counselor. A therapist title and license type is determined by the state that they are licensed in and their training.
To make things a little more confusing, therapists regardless of their title or license can specialize in different areas. There are hundreds of specializations but common ones include: couples, family, groups, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, stress management, domestic violence, grief & loss and life transitions.