I need therapy. Yes, but….Psychologist? Psychiatrist? Psychotherapist? It’s easy to get lost between all these PSY-chological skills shared by these professionals! Here are the main differences!

  • As a physician, the psychiatrist is the only one who can prescribe medication. They can also deal with more severe psychiatric illnesses that require medical attention.
  • Moreover, the consultation of a psychiatrist can be covered by the Health Insurance, unlike that of a psychologist.

Therapy with a psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in psychiatry. Unlike the psychologist, the psychiatrist has studied medicine, and is able to issue medication or a medical leave, if necessary.

They can propose different methods of therapeutic or medicated treatments, depending on the case. They can also treat certain psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anorexia, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc…

The psychiatrist may specialize in psychoanalysis, or have training in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). There are also many other specialties such as child psychiatry.

Therapy with a psychologist

The psychologist has a university degree in psychology. It is a regulated profession. The big difference with the psychiatrist is that they cannot issue a medical prescription and they did not go to medical school so they are not entitled to make medical diagnoses.

Like the psychiatrist, he or she may have a psychoanalytic, CBT or other orientation. It should be noted that psychoanalysis is a very long therapy that can take several years.

You can start couple’s therapy, treat your anxiety or depression, with a psychologist in consultation for example. There are also psychologists who specialize in adolescence or child psychology.

If therapy alone is not sufficient and medical treatment is necessary, the psychologist will refer you to a psychiatrist. Conversely, the psychiatrist may also suggest follow-up with a psychologist instead of or in addition to psychiatric care.

Psychoanalyst, behaviorist, TIPist

They are professionals who have undergone specific psychotherapeutic specialization. However, these quality trainings are generally provided by schools or specialized societies, not by universities.

If the professional is a psychiatrist or psychologist, the fact that he or she practices psychotherapy is an advantage: it means that, in addition to university education, he or she is specifically trained in psychotherapy.


This is a professional practicing Interpersonal Therapy (IPT). He can intervene in all types of problems. In addition, he or she is almost always a psychiatrist or psychologist (a prerequisite for enrolling in certain training programs). IPT is an overspecialization.

Psychoanalyst /analyst

This therapist is not necessarily a psychiatrist or psychologist. However, he benefits from a training codified by the Specialized Societies of Psychoanalysis, whose content varies according to the tendencies, which guarantees a consequent theoretical base. Analysts have a great diversity of practice according to the theory they put into practice (Lacanian, Jungian, Freudian etc…)

Behaviorist / Cognitivist / Cognitivo-Behaviorist

A professional practicing a particular type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). He can intervene in all types of problems. He or she is almost always a psychiatrist or psychologist (a prerequisite for enrolling in certain training programs). CBT is an over-specialization.

Family therapy / systemic therapist

A professional practicing a particular type of psychotherapy called systemic therapy or family therapy. This therapy is particularly well suited to the problems encountered in children. He is almost always a psychiatrist or psychologist. Family therapy is an over-specialization.


Psychotherapist and less academic professionals

Therapist / Psychotherapist

This name is the least clear. Theoretically, it refers to all professionals capable of performing psychotherapy. However, until recently, the conditions that regulated the right to use this title were not clear. As a result, many people have been able to use this title without having any recognized training.

For a professional who has a recognized theoretical background, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, and who adds “psychotherapist” to this title: no problem (on the contrary!).

Therapy with a coach / therapeutic coach

This professional intervenes to improve the patient’s performance in a well-defined area. The problem is that there is no well codified training to award this title. Many use it without any valid theoretical support. To learn more about coaching, we suggest you visit this page on coaching.

There are several types of coaching:

  • individual or corporate coaching
  • group coaching
  • analysis and audit of a situation

Coaching is widely used in companies and also very fashionable for individuals. Its contributions are very important and beneficial when the coach is competent. Many coaching structures are flourishing… so how do you find your way?

As the title of coach is not protected by any decree, the most prudent thing to do is to choose one who has a degree in health care: psychiatrist, psychologist or registered nurse.

Other denominations for other types of therapy

Our advice: As a general rule, beware of all “therapists” who do not have a clearly recognized title. Generally, when you have titles, you put them forward, so if you don’t put it on your wall, it means you don’t have any…

Also, beware of all “titles” whose name is not clear. Ask around first, as many denominations do not guarantee any specific training. None of them can benefit from the title of psychotherapist by right.

  • psychopractitioner: ambiguous as it reminds us of the term hospital practitioner physician. But psychopractitioner is not a doctor
  • fasciatherapist and fasciapulsologist: non conventional manual therapy. Unproven effectiveness. Not to be confused with chiropractic and osteopathy, which are recognized.
  • psychosomatologist
  • somatologist
  • reflexologist
  • energy therapist.

These terms include unrecognized exercises that have not been scientifically proven to be effective (other than placebo). If the term is not clear, beware!

Recognized professionals who do not provide psychotherapy

Therapy with a psychomotrician

This professional benefits from a state-regulated university education. He intervenes within the framework of assessments and treatments that link the psyche and the body. It does not provide any psychotherapy, and intervenes on medical prescription. Don’t let the “psy” in the first syllable fool you!

Which “psy” to choose for which type of therapy?

Anxiety disorder

For anxiety, you can consult a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in cognitive or behavioral therapy, often used for this type of disorder. Sometimes medication is also necessary, and you may be referred to a psychiatrist.


Both psychologist or psychiatrist can manage depressed patients, but in many cases medication is needed to supplement therapy. In this case, it is better to turn to a psychiatrist.


If you are overworked, or “burned out”, you can consult a psychologist or psychiatrist to help you get through it. But only a doctor, such as a psychiatrist, can prescribe a medical leave from work. Your family doctor or occupational physician may also do this.

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

To cure OCD, therapists often use CBT, which can be practiced by the psychologist or psychiatrist. If OCD is very severe, medical treatment may be prescribed. It must be issued by a psychiatrist.


If you have a phobia, you can first consult a social worker or your family doctor for a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist. Often, the patient is referred to a psychologist for CBT; treatment with medication is rarely necessary, unless the phobia is accompanied by other psychological disorders.

Lack of self-confidence

Lack of self-confidence is a problem encountered by many people, which can be overcome with the help of a psychotherapist, social worker or psychologist. The psychiatrist can intervene in the case of deeper body and appearance disorders, such as dysmorphophobia or anorexia, for example.

If you have a problem, don’t be left alone: contact us by phone to make an appointment!


Dr Nicolas Neveux, Psychiatrist

Antoine Besse