The psychiatrist is above all a medical doctor. He studied medicine, and thus has the right to prescribe medication. In France, consultations with the psychiatrist are often very brief (lasting for about ten, fifteen minutes) yet they are reimbursed by Social Security. However, the type of pathology and or symptoms treated by the psychiatrist and the psychotherapist are usually different, and so we often refer patients to each other.
The psychologist has a master’s degree in psychology (sports, clinical, developmental, or other), and is free to choose their theoretical orientation or the therapies they specialise in. However, they are under no obligation to have undergone their own therapy and also are not bound to be under any kind of supervision. Just like psychoanalysts and psychotherapists, their sessions are not reimbursed by the French health insurance, unless they work in a public institution, for example a hospital.
The title of psychoanalyst is not protected by French law: this means that anyone and everyone can call themselves a “psychoanalyst”. Often, they will have completed a master’s degree, have undergone their own analysis and be in supervision (this is one of the requirements of becoming an analyst). Other times, unfortunately, none of the above will apply. Therefore, when going to see a psychoanalyst, do not hesitate to ask about their credentials, training and experience. A good analyst will be more than happy to answer any concerns you might have.
Since 2010, the title of psychotherapist is regulated by French law, to guarantee a consistent level of education amongst psychotherapists and protect patients from gurus, cults, self-proclaimed therapists and “cowboy counselling”. Only those who have completed a Master’s degree in psychology, psychoanalysis, or medical doctors, and have followed specific post-graduate courses and an internship of a minimum of five months in a hospital or other public health institution, have the right to practice under the title of “psychotherapist”. Usually, a psychotherapist is trained in several kinds of therapy, for example EMDR, psychoanalysis, family systems therapy, CBT, and so on, and adapts these various techniques to each individual patient. A good psychotherapist is very flexible when it comes to the form and the duration of therapy.