Differentiating Between Medical Professionals

By Eileen Bailey

ADHD is a medical diagnosis and often there are additional co-existing conditions. During your treatment you will run across a variety of medical professionals. It can be confusing to sort out what type of medical professional you should consult and which professional can and will do what to contribute to your treatment plan. Knowing the differences between the different professionals can help you to make informed decisions regarding your treatment and can help you to know what to expect from the different professionals.


Psychiatrists have completed medical school; they are medical doctors (M.D.). In addition to medical school, they have undergone several additional years of specialized training and education. Some continue their education even further and specialize in a field such as child psychology or geriatric psychology.

Psychiatry deals with the treatment and prevention of mental and emotional disorders, such as ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.

Board Certified Psychiatrists are those that have been in practice at least two years and have passed examinations given by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Psychiatrists, because they are medical doctors, can prescribe medication.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “This extensive medical training enables the psychiatrist to understand the body's functions and the complex relationship between emotional illness and other medical illnesses. The psychiatrist is thus the mental health professional and physician best qualified to distinguish between physical and psychological causes of both mental and physical distress."


Psychologists are medical professionals and have received either their Master’s Degree or Doctorate in psychology. They cannot prescribe medication (in most states) but they provide treatment, diagnosis and psychological testing of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Psychologists often use talk therapy as a treatment method.

Depending on the state they practice, education for a licensed psychologist is five to seven years and an additional internship of one to two years. Some states require an additional one to two years of supervised practice.

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