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What Are the Different Types of Psychiatry Degrees?

By Ray Hawk
Updated May 17, 2024
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The different types of psychiatry degrees fall within the broader range of degrees in psychology, which deals with states of the human mind in general. Since psychiatry is more focused on mental disorders, these degrees are a branch of medicine that takes a biomedical approach which includes the prescription of drugs. Psychiatric treatment is focused on attempts to diagnose and cure or minimize the effects of mental disorders that are manifested through physical, mental, or social influences on individuals and groups. Psychiatrists, therefore, have more clinical training than psychologists and hold degrees that allow them to practice improving the mental health of individuals through psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. They may also be specifically focused on conditioning individuals to overcome mental health issues through what is known as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Due to the fact that psychology and psychiatry degrees both deal with the state of the mind, official degree titles can often be overlapping. Psychiatry degrees that include the title of psychotherapist, counselor, and therapist are also referred to broadly as a degree in clinical psychology. These are active degrees in clinical practice either in a hospital or private setting, and often require a Ph.D. level of education. As a medical specialty, this includes the ability to prescribe drugs and supervise other types of treatment for severe mental disorders such as electroconvulsive shock therapy (ECT).

Another type of mental health degree in psychology that overlaps with several types of psychiatry degrees is that of counseling psychology, often requiring only a master's degree in formal education for practice. These types of medical specialty degrees in psychiatry are often referred to by the terms "licensed counselor" and "social worker," though other working titles in counseling psychology also include those of "psychotherapist" and "therapist." Like other psychiatry titles, these are licensed positions for practice, whereas psychology degrees are generally unlicensed and focused more on theories of the mind than actual treatment.

Among the most common types of psychiatry degrees is simply that of the psychiatrist, which is a master's degree level of education focused on social work. Psychiatrists often practice as family therapists or under several legal distinctions as counselors. These distinctions in the US include the Licensed Counselor of Social Work (LCSW), the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Counselor in corporate settings, and the Mental Health and Social Welfare (MSW) Counselor. Other titles also exist in this category for psychotherapy practice, which include the Master of Arts (MA) in counseling. While the MA is also a master's degree education for clinical practice in psychiatry, it is generally considered at a lower level of psychiatry associate licensing, and is often used for arenas such as school, career, and rehabilitation counseling positions.

One of the most advanced forms of psychiatry degrees is one that is intended to be used for specializing in the field of psychiatry by practicing medical doctors. These psychiatrists are fully trained as medical doctors first, and then go into a residency for psychiatry afterwards which can last an additional two to five years. Doctors in this profession of psychiatric treatment often work in mental health institutions after their residency to gain further training in their specialty.

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