The Difference between Psychiatry and Social Work

April 1, 2016 Guest Author

The difference between psychiatry and social work is important to understand. The work that psychiatrists and social workers do is very laudable. They give of themselves and help people who are in their worst circumstance to have the best outcome in life. At times, it may seem like the work that psychiatrists do and the work that social workers do is one in the same. And while there are times where both fields cross paths, there is a difference between social work and psychiatry.

What Is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. They have received extensive training on addressing mental health issues using medication. It’s easy to confuse the work that a psychiatrist does with a therapist. Therapists listen to people’s problems and talk them through the issues they are dealing with. Just about anyone can claim that they are a therapist. However, a psychiatrist has the medical degree to support their work.

What Is a Social Worker?

psych vs swA social worker is also a licensed professional. Unlike a psychiatrist, a social worker has not received a doctorate, but, instead, they have received a master’s degree in social work. A psychologist or psychiatrist is going to receive training involving the structure of the human personality. A social worker will get a master’s degree in social work, and their training revolves around how societal factors will affect a person’s behavior. They also learn about the different social services and social resources that are available in the community. Many professionals get their master’s degree in social work while they are working in a different field.

The Benefits of Psychiatry and Social Work

Both psychiatrists and social workers are licensed professionals. This means that they have received standardized training. Through fieldwork and testing, they have proven that they have the skill set necessary to accomplish their job. This also means that they are confined by an ethics code. Both psychiatrists and social workers are required to receive additional training to stay up-to-date with the latest techniques and services that are available.

Both psychiatrists and social workers are given the public’s trust. The work they do has an impact on the community's mental and emotional health. Being a social worker or psychiatrist can be mentally and emotionally taxing, but the rewards that come from doing this type of work are innumerable.

This article was written by:

rashelle wilberRachelle Wilber is a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. She tries to find an interest in all topics and themes, which prompts her writing. When she isn't on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Rachelle knows that social workers receive masters degrees in social work. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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APA Reference
Author, G. (2016, April 1). The Difference between Psychiatry and Social Work, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 27 from

Author: Guest Author

Yolonda DuBose
July, 21 2023 at 3:30 pm

Not accurate. I am a social worker with a doctorate. Please update this information to ensure accuracy!

Crystal, LCSW
June, 4 2023 at 7:42 am

Social workers can earn a Doctorate of Social Work degree, so that and other information in this article is incorrect. I have an MSW and I’m a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). I own a private practice and diagnose and treat mental illnesses, not just provide resources. When writing articles such as this to “educate” the public it would be helpful to do extensive research to ensure the information is accurate.

April, 5 2016 at 3:23 pm

As an Occupational Therapist in mental health, I feel we "bridge the gap" or straddle both professions sometimes! Not that thats a bad thing :) This was a good read.

April, 1 2016 at 10:40 pm

Not sure what the conclusion was?

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