>So the other day I really started to think just what the difference between psychiatry and psychology were (after Jia inquired). From my elementary understanding, I’m having a hard time distinguishing the two. First off is the matter of school. Typically psychologists can obtain their licensing through graduate school, with a masters allowing licensing in some provinces (Alberta, Quebec for one), and a Ph.D (or recently the Psy D in some schools, notably Memorial University’s promised program induction within the next few years, a big one for prospective Canadian psychology students). Furthermore, work done in clinical settings, or say the hospital require post doctoral work. This is comparison to psychiatry, which requires a medical degree and residency, where there can be further specialization into things like geriatric psychiatry.

So that’s the first one. School. The next difference that is changing, as noted previously, is that psychiatry can prescribe medication. To my understanding (I could be wrong), there is a larger push for psychopharmacology in psychiatry. They spend more time on medication management as a course of treatment. On the other hand, my readings have indicated that psychology focuses on psychotherapy (one source cited psychoanalysis, which seems wrong as that is just one perspective in psychology), treating mental suffering with behavioral treatment. They also conduct psychological testing to determine the person’s mental state (although I question whether psychiatrists do this too).

Now that there is a push for psychologists to have the ability to prescribe, will that change the approach to patients? Probably not in the short term, but in the long term, who knows. It reminds me of an article I was just reading concerning school psychology in Australia. In comparison to North American practices, Aussie psychologists do not focus on identifying learning disabilities through definitions and labeling, but rather focus on direct solutions to specific learning difficulties. This means that they are targeting particular behaviors, rather than labeling a child as dyslexic (and with ever changing definitions, there are no specific solutions to such a label). This is quite different than that of their Canadian/American counterparts, where the focus (indeed upto 70% of their time) is on psychometric assessment/reporting. Australia stands by identifying learning disabilities at the classroom level using simple teacher applied systems. This initially worried me, as it meant that there necessity of school psychology was diminished. Indeed rather the opposite has occurred, with psychologists providing a consultive/collaborative effort to turn educational innovation into educational practice. They make solutions that work with the classroom. Which is exactly where I would like to be. Although North America has indicated that the overall focus is leaning that way, there really is no indication of how long it will take to change.

One thing I found particularly frustrating was the ideas of labels. As noted in the article, labels can have inconsistent numbers of characteristics, and its better to focus on the individual profile of strengths and weaknesses. Friday’s seminar reviewed Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, with two of its three identifying characteristics being inconsistent, if not outright rare (for example; growth retardation rarely occurs because alcoholic beverages provide excessive amounts of calories which counter alcohol’s retentive nature). If its so rare then why is it an identifying characteristic? Perhaps to reinforce a diagnosis, but really, its a rare trait. Sigh. Unfortunately I never found the right time to inquire. Gah.

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