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The Difference Between a Child Psychologist and a Child Psychiatrist

Seeking child therapy for your family can feel like a stressful endeavor – there are a lot of factors to take into consideration to ensure your child gets the support and resources they need. Selecting from the range of child counselors available can be the first step. 


We help break down the differences between working with a child psychologist and a child psychiatrist. Both have overlapping specialties but unique disciplines that can help with a range of different support options available. 


In need of child therapy today? Contact The Family Center in Ellicott City to set up an intake appointment for therapy, medication management, diagnosis, family support, and more.

What is a Child Psychologist

A child psychologist focuses on mental health disorders and managing emotional distress. 


Psychologists obtain a PhD or comparable doctorate degree in psychology or philosophical disciplines. The work is considered more theoretical with different approaches to handling and managing mental health. 


They focus on the history of and patterns of mental health disorders to aid in proper diagnoses. They are equipped to administer various methods of therapy approaches and create a treatment plan of coping mechanisms and techniques. They focus often on talk therapy and cognitive behavior therapy. 


Child psychologists are a good aid and resource for not just support and resources, but they have the education and qualifications to diagnose various mental health disorders and illnesses. Setting goals focused on support, resources, emotional management, diagnosis, and diagnosis management is how child psychologists can best support your child. 


At select facilities, child psychologists will work alongside school counselors or other present adults in the child’s life to create a well-rounded and supported treatment plan.

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What is a Child Psychiatrist

A child psychiatrist has been educated in general medicine and is considered a trained medical doctor, able to prescribe medications and help with medication management. 


Psychiatrists go through 4 years of medical residency and work within hospitals with psychiatric patients to understand, diagnose, and treat mental illnesses with a variety of medication and therapeutic approaches. 


Child psychiatrists will work alongside other medical professionals present in the child’s life, including their primary care physician, to take a whole-person approach at any problems that are occurring to find the proper root cause. This is especially important if a child or adolescent is advised medication from the child psychiatrist to help manage or treat various mental health disorders (which may or may not include depression, ADHD, bipolar, etc.). 


While some psychiatrists may offer talk therapy for child patients, their primary focus is on medical medication management alongside a psychologist or therapist. You want to inquire with any child psychiatrist you are considering about what services they do and do not offer and who they work in tandem with to provide a well-rounded therapeutic approach.

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When to Work with a Child Psychiatrist vs a Child Psychologist

Selecting between a psychiatrist or a psychologist for your child can be a simple task reduced to some fairly standard questions:


  • Are you looking for a diagnosis? Both a psychiatrist and a psychologist can assist

  • Are you looking to get support for your child in the form of talk therapy or cognitive behavior therapy? You want to work with a psychologist

  • Are you looking to explore medication for your child, alongside their primary physician’s input? You want to contact a psychiatrist

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How to Contact a Child Counselor Near You

The best thing about working with a community like The Family Center is that you do not have to make these decisions alone nor do you have to trial-and-error different doctors from various different locations.


At The Family Center, we work to partner your child with the best child counselor on staff who is the right fit for them. We can give insight onto if a psychiatrist or psychologist is the right first step. After an intake meeting and more feedback, we can easily pivot the treatment approach to change doctors to get the right hands-on, attentive support you are seeking for your family.


Contact us today to learn more about our staff and get your family the support they need to thrive.

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