We often receive phone calls from patients who are not sure whether their referral is for seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. Another question that we often hear is that “what is the difference between the two? 

Whether you see a psychologist, psychiatrist OR both, it is a conversation you need to have with your GP. This blog is aimed to assist you to ask the informed questions, so that your discussion with your GP may lead to the support that is tailored to your individual needs.  

Many pathways to your recovery:

• Psychiatrists typically see patients who are experiencing serious mental illness. In many cases, patients have multiple conditions and may require medication. On the other hand, psychologists can provide counselling to patients from mild to severe levels of mental illness. At times they may also work as a team.  

• Another pathway for people experiencing severe levels of mental health conditions is to initially see a psychiatrist, after their condition is stabilised (which may involve using medication), they commence therapy sessions with a psychologist.    

• Sometimes seeing a psychologist can help you to recognise the depth of your mental health condition and a referral to a psychiatrist can be made by your GP with the psychologist’s recommendation.

• At other times your medication can be managed by your GP and seeing a psychologist alone is enough.

The following table can summarise the services that both professions offer:

Psychiatrists have medical training, thus enabling them to recognise the effects of medical issues on mental healthPsychologists study a broad range of mental health condition, their effects on human physiology and therapeutic techniques to assist patients to overcome these conditions
When you require diagnosis for an underlying mental health condition(s)Psychologists are trained to find the cause or root of existing mental health condition(s) and offer personally tailored counselling programs for children, adolescents and adults
Psychiatrists primarily see patients with complex, medical and mental health conditions which may require medication. Some psychiatrists provide counselling or psychotherapy or may be specialised in an area such as geriatrics or adolescentsClinical Psychologists are trained to provide mental health assessments. They primarily write assessments needed to receive a Disability Support Pension, however, a letter from both a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist provides the best thorough advice. Highly experienced and trained General Psychologists can also provide mental health assessments and other assessments such as ones needed for NDIS.
Expert medical advice to receive a disability support pension, involvement of work cover or court related mattersExperienced psychologists are expected to be experts in several psychological therapies. With such expertise, they can empower you through your journey of recovery and provide the tools that could allow you to manage life on your own, after the completion of your therapy sessions.
In some cases, a psychiatrist is required to provide consultation regarding complex physical health conditions involving both physical and mental health conditions such as using anti-depressant medication during pregnancy or whilst having a heart condition and using multiple medicationsPsychologists work together with psychiatrists to provide you with the best possible counselling experience.

If you are experiencing mental health issues

In urgent situations: If you are at the risk of harming yourself or others get URGENT assistance. In Australia you need to call 000 

To see a psychiatrist: You need to see your GP and he/she can provide you a referral to see a psychiatrist. 

To see a psychologist: You need to see your GP and he/she can provide you a Mental Health Care Plan, which can provide you up 10 sessions with Medicare rebates 

How Takes Care Specialist Centre can assist you further?  

To obtain more information: Please feel free to call trained and friendly staff at Specialist Centre, if you have any further queries. 

Residents of metropolitan area of Brisbane: Takes Care Specialist Centre can provide face to face psychiatry and psychology sessions. 

NDIS participants: Call Takes Care Specialist Centre to see how our Brisbane-based psychologist can assist you. We can also provide in-home counselling for limited areas of Brisbane. 

Residents of regional areas: our Brisbane-based psychiatrists and psychologists can provide you consults through telehealth. This means that the psychiatry or psychology appointments will be made at your medical centre, where their friendly staff would then provide you the facilities in a private room that would allow you to speak with one of our experienced psychiatrists or psychologists via Skype. 

More resources:

For material on Mental Health and Medicare:


Various sources of support that are provided by Beyond Blue