There are a number of instances where Singaporeans suffering from depression or their respective families get confused between a psychiatrist and psychologist when it comes to seeking medical help. Although it is true that many psychiatrists and psychologists in Singapore work in close co-operation so that patients can recuperate quickly, their job descriptions or profiles are different and distinctly demarcated.

Psychiatrists versus psychologists: Similarities and Differences

Psychiatrists in Singapore are medical doctors who received advance training via post-graduate clinical residency programs to accurately diagnose and treat mental disorders. Psychologists in Singapore and other psychotherapists are trained to use psychological scales for psychometric measurements or use various models of psychotherapy (e.g. CBT, Clinical hypnosis, art therapy, EMDR or solution focused therapy) for treatment. Sometimes, where medication and psychotherapy are needed, psychiatrist and psychologists often work in collaboration with each other.

Psychiatrists in Singapore are often locally trained and familiar with the mental healthcare system in Singapore, they are regulated by the Ministry of Health and at least hold a Master Degree in Medicine (M.Med(Psychiatry) and a Bachelor Degree in Medicine, Bachelor Degree in Surgery (M.B.B.S.). The total length of training and residency for a psychiatrist including medical school is between 11 to 13 years.

A psychologist in Singapore often holds a Bachelor Degree of Arts (Psychology) followed by a post-graduate Master Degree in relevant fields such as Clinical Psychology or a Doctorate in Psychology. The title “psychologist” in Singapore is Not regulated by the Ministry of Health.

Often psychologists will specialise in models of therapy such as EMDR, Art therapy, play therapy or be proficient in specialised psychological assessments. Thus, psychologists often work with psychiatrists for the holistic care of patients for accurate diagnosis, pharmacological therapy, psychological assessment and psychotherapy.

Another significant aspect or factor that delineates the two professionals is that psychiatrists are qualified or eligible to prescribe medications while psychologists in Singapore can’t.

Whom to consult?

If the patient has taken out a health insurance policy it is likely that both the professionals will be covered in the program which means the individual will receive reimbursement for consulting either a psychologist or psychiatrist and/or undergoing treatment. Since psychiatrists have received training for the treatment of grave mental health issues, they’re better placed to deal with and take good care of patients. On the other hand, people inconvenienced with a lighter form of mental ailment and averse to taking medications are more likely to get in touch with a psychologist in Singapore.

Generally, psychologists and psychiatrists in a large hospital setting or clinic generally work in tandem not only for the welfare of the patients but also to facilitate their functioning. A psychologist, if he or she deems fit, can refer a patient to a psychiatrist and vice-versa.

Written By Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic