Psychologists are experts in human behaviour, having studied the brain, memory, learning, human development and the processes determining how people think, feel, behave and react. Psychologists apply their expertise using reliable and scientifically supported methods. Psychological therapies are widely used to treat individuals and families and can also be applied to groups and organisations.

There are many reasons why people consult a psychologist.

Recognising an APS psychologist

Psychologists who are members of the Australian Psychological Society are recognised by the following post-nominals:

  • Hon FAPS (Honorary Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society)
  • FAPS (Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society)
  • MAPS (Member of the Australian Psychological Society)
  • Assoc MAPS (Associate Member of the Australian Psychological Society).

The difference between psychologists and psychiatrists

Psychologists and psychiatrists both work in the area of mental health, and often work together. However, there are some significant differences between the two professions in the following areas.

Education and qualifications

Psychologists study human behaviour in their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees before undertaking supervised experience and gaining registration. They do not have a medical degree; however, many have postgraduate qualifications in various aspects of psychology, including mental illness.

Psychiatrists have a medical degree, which involves six years of studying general medicine, followed by further study to specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and emotional problems.   

Services provided

Psychologists assist people with everyday problems such as stress and relationship difficulties, and some specialise in treating people with a mental illness. They help people to develop the skills needed to function better and to prevent ongoing problems.

Psychiatrists treat the effects of emotional disturbances on the body and the effects of physical conditions on the mind.

Prescribing medication

Psychologists cannot prescribe medication. Their treatments are based on changing behaviour and emotional responses without medication. There is a considerable amount of evidence showing psychological treatments are effective.

Psychiatrists can prescribe medication. Some combine medication with other forms of therapy.