HomeMedicine ArticlesThe Difference Between a Therapist and Physician

The Difference Between a Therapist and Physician

When you hear the term therapist, you may think of someone to whom you can tell all your deepest, darkest secrets so they can give you the sympathy and advice you need to get over your troubles. While that might be true at times, there are many more differences between a therapist and physician than just how much they know about their patients’ problems. Here’s what makes these two positions so different from one another.

Who Is a Therapist?

A therapist is a health professional who helps people with problems, usually in their emotions or behaviours. Therapists help people work through issues that might be affecting their day-to-day lives. These professionals may also specialize in treating physical problems by helping patients cope with pain, injury, illness, or other medical conditions. They also treat addictions and substance abuse as well as eating disorders. Many therapists use talk therapy to help clients overcome these issues.

A therapist is different from a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a licensed medical doctor who has completed extra training in how to treat patients with mental health disorders. In some cases, they can prescribe medication. A psychologist also has gone through more schooling than your average person, but they usually focus on behavioural therapy as opposed to talk therapy. Their goal is to improve their patient’s quality of life by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

Some therapists are self-employed and work as independent contractors. They might specialize in working with people of a certain age group, like children or adults, or with people who have similar problems. Other therapists work for large companies, hospitals, or clinics. Most therapists aren’t required to have any formal education beyond high school. Many are also expected to go through some type of training after getting their degree so they can learn how to work effectively with patients.

What Does a Therapist Do?

There are several roles for therapists in health care, these health care professionals perform many of the same services as traditional therapists. They work with individuals, couples or families to identify stressors that may be triggering mental illnesses like depression or anxiety, or behavioural problems like addictions.

The roles of therapists include;

1. Treat A Client’s Mental Health

There are many different types of therapists. Some, for example, specialize in treating depression or anxiety, while others focus on behavioural issues like addictions. Therapists can also specialize in age groups (children or adults) or even work with those who have experienced traumatic events.

Therapists use a variety of therapeutic techniques to help their clients manage stress, anxiety and other emotional problems.

2. Provide Advice On How to Deal with Stress and Anxiety in Your Life

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, therapy may be helpful. Therapists help people learn new ways of thinking about their issues, as well as develop better-coping skills. They can also teach healthy strategies for dealing with strong emotions. Some therapists work very collaboratively with their clients, while others are more directive (for example, when it comes to managing medications).

3. Treat Substance Abuse Problems

There are many different types of therapists who specialize in treating substance abuse problems. For example, some work with individuals who have abused substances like alcohol or illegal drugs. Others may help people manage symptoms related to addictions to prescription drugs. Still, others may work with those struggling with eating disorders or gambling addictions. These therapists often spend time educating their clients about their specific addiction, then helping them develop tools for overcoming their problems.

4. Help Manage Your Physical Health

Most therapists don’t treat physical conditions. However, if you’re struggling with a mental illness that interferes with your ability to care for yourself, some might work closely with your doctor to coordinate your care. For example, they may help you cope with depression or anxiety so that you can resume taking medications as prescribed by your doctor.

5. Help You Cope with Grief

If you’re coping with grief following an illness or death, therapy may be helpful. During therapy, you can explore your feelings related to what happened. You’ll also learn healthy ways of managing your grief as it’s happening, as well as how to manage any negative thoughts that pop up in response to loss.

What Does a Physician Do?

Physicians diagnose, treat, and help prevent illnesses. Physicians must go to medical school for 8 years, then complete three years of residency in their chosen specialty before practising on their own. Doctors can choose from multiple specialties including surgery, internal medicine, emergency medicine, paediatrics or family practice. The following fields are sometimes considered allied health: nurse practitioner (NP), certified registered nurse anaesthetist (CRNA), physician assistant (PA), naturopathic doctor (ND)

Their roles include:

1. Diagnose Medical Conditions

Physicians use their expertise to determine if patients have certain medical conditions. They do so by gathering information about symptoms, as well as performing exams or tests. Physicians can order blood tests or other diagnostic procedures to help them assess patient symptoms and find out what’s causing them. After they understand what’s causing patients’ symptoms, physicians create a plan of action to address their conditions.

2. Treat Acute/Chronic Medical Conditions

A physician treats acute medical conditions, such as broken bones and infections. Chronic conditions can include heart disease, diabetes, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and strokes. Patients may also see physicians for wellness care to promote good health. This might include visits for preventive screenings, or to address lifestyle issues such as weight loss. When appropriate, they’ll refer patients to specialists who can provide even more focused care.

3. Prescribe Medications

A physician who prescribes medications is known as an M.D. (Medical Doctor). Some physicians, who do not work in a clinical setting or don’t prescribe medications, will become NPs (Nurse Practitioners) or PAs (Physician Assistants). These providers must also complete an approved education program to receive licensure.

4. Order, Perform, Interpret Diagnostic Tests

Physicians interpret data from diagnostic tests to identify any illness or injury. They order, perform, and interpret tests that include x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, electrocardiograms (EKGs), echocardiograms (ECHOs), pulmonary function tests (PFTs) and any other types of specific medical tests. They also take medical histories from patients by asking questions about symptoms such as chest pain or fatigue.

5. Develop Treatment Plans for Ongoing Medical Conditions

Physicians are more highly trained than therapists, which is why they’re generally more qualified to develop treatment plans for ongoing medical conditions. If you’re going to see both types of professionals, make sure you discuss your diagnosis with each to ensure they’re on board with your current course of action.

Therapists are licensed to treat patients with mental health disorders, while physicians aren’t allowed to address mental health. A doctor that is also a therapist must be able to treat both physical and mental ailments. A psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist can help you get back on track if your mind isn’t well.

What distinguishes a therapist and a physician is that a doctor will prescribe medications for you. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication for mental health issues, whereas a therapist cannot.

When to See a Therapist?

Most therapists are trained to work with all sorts of emotional or mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, grief, addiction and more. However, some medical conditions require an in-person visit with your family doctor before you can see a therapist. The main thing to consider is: Are you in immediate danger? Do you need medical attention right away?

If so, head directly to your family doctor.  For example, if you’re feeling suicidal and need assistance immediately, it’s probably best to see your family doctor first. If not—if you just feel depressed or anxious—you should be able to go directly to a therapist for treatment. In general, though, it’s best to have an evaluation from your doctor first.


A therapist is someone who helps you work through your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours to feel better. Physicians are medical doctors, who can prescribe medicine for mental health issues. So if you’re looking for help with your emotional well-being, then maybe it’s time to seek out a therapist. On the other hand, if you need medication or physical treatment, then perhaps it would be best to see a physician. And no matter what type of doctor you see, remember that they both care about your overall well-being; they just have different approaches.


1. What type of doctor is a therapist?

While there are many types of doctors, therapists are not all MDs by default. Therapists tend to be specialized in their fields — such as behavioural therapy or mental health counselling.

2. Is a therapist different from other medical professionals like physicians?

Yes! Psychologists/therapists generally offer support/counselling whereas medical professionals treat illness/disease with medication, surgery, etc.

3. Can you have a therapist for a child?

Yes! Therapists can provide services for children with developmental delays or special needs. It’s especially important to get children into treatment early on because early intervention greatly increases their chances of success later on.

4. Are psychiatrist’s therapists?

No! Psychiatrists are medical doctors who focus on treating psychiatric disorders that require medication management

5. How do I find a therapist?

Getting started can seem daunting, but finding a therapist doesn’t have to be difficult. If you have insurance, your primary care physician might have suggestions regarding which therapists he or she works well with.






- Advertisement - spot_img