Q: What’s the difference between a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a medical psychologist?

Haha, there has to be a joke in there somewhere!!
But, for real, this is a common question I’m asked when I tell people about the psychopharmacology program.

A: The simple answer is:

“not very much” and “a whole lot” …read on.

A: The complicated answer is:

A psychologist has a minimum of the following:

  • BA in clinical psychology, sociology, or related field
  • MA in psychology (can be obtained interim)
  • Supervised by licensed clinician for 1500 pre-doc hours
  • Doctorate in psychology (Either PsyD, or PhD, EdD, etc.)
  • Sup. by licensed psychologist for 1500 post-doc hours
  • Successful passing of the National Exam
    • In the United States that is the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, or EPPP
  • Successful passing of the State Ethical Exam
    • In California it is the California Psychology Supplemental Examination, or CPSE
  • Accepted application and initial fee to State of licensure
    • California Board of Psychology, or CA BOP

Please also refer to my other post discussing the requirements that a licensed psychologist must meet prior to licensure.

A psychiatrist has a minimum of the following:

  • BA in psychology, or a related field
  • MD from medical school completion
  • Residency completion
  • The United States Medical Licensing Examination USMLE is a multi-part professional exam sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME)
  • Passing of the State medical board
  • Accepted application and initial fee to State of licensure

-Cloud, J. (2010). Psychology vs. Psychiatry: What’s the Difference, and Which Is Better? Time.  

Okay, here is where it gets a bit confusing…

A Medical Psychologist can be a:

1-highly trained and licensed psychologist


2-highly trained and licensed psychologist

upon request.

The lines between psychiatry and medical psychology are becoming blurred. Though, they are admittedly VERY different fields with different qualifications and degrees. It is this author’s belief that the blur happens from a variety of sources: depictions on television and other media outlets, misinformation, miseducation, interpretation and perception. But, the most important blur is occurring due to the nation-wide scarcity of prescribers, in general! You may have noticed the increasing amount of Nurse Practitioners, Physician’s Assistants and dun-dun-dun-dun-duuuuun… Medical Psychologists!

Some people prefer to call a psychologists who can prescribe a “prescribing psychologist” in Louisiana, New Mexico, Guam, Native American territories, and some state and Federal departments (currently the only places said professional can prescribe.) Makes sense, but in Louisiana, many entities, (including the ones who license folks) call a psychologist who can prescribe psychotropic medications a “medical psychologist” even using the suffix “MP.” ex-Jen Chandler, PsyD, MP

Other similar names have popped up over the years, including: psychopharmacologist, pharmacopsychologist, pharmacology psychologist, psychology pharmacologist, prescribing psychologist, RxP, and as discussed medical psychologist. In my opinion, the varying names for this practice may highlight the general disorganization of the field of psychology. Historically, we have not been our own best advocates…

Hope this clears up some misinformation, or confusion. Thanks for reading.

Sharing is caring,
Dr. Jen Chandler


About medicalpsych

Dr. Jon Chandler is a Licensed Medical (Prescribing) Psychologist serving the Greater New Orleans, Louisiana area.

Posted on September 29, 2013, in psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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