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Ph.D. Doctorate
Education

What is a Psychiatrist?

A Psychiatrist is a specialized type of Doctor. Also known as: Mental Health Professional, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Child Psychiatrist, Mental Disorder Physician, Mental Health Physician.

Psychiatry is a medical specialty that involves the treatment of mental disorders. Psychiatrists are physicians who evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who are affected by a temporary or chronic mental health problem.

Contrary to popular belief, psychiatrists don't treat only people who are called "crazy" or "insane." This is a misconception and a distortion of the truth because people who suffer from delusions or hallucinations form only a fraction of psychiatric patients. In fact, many people have borderline or temporary psychiatric conditions that may be effectively treated, resulting in full recovery of the patient.

How to Become a Psychiatrist

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What does a Psychiatrist do?

Although the location of the problem is the brain, unlike neurologists, psychiatrists do not treat organic or structural disorders such as epilepsy, consequences of strokes or brain cancers. However, these disorders may also cause psychiatric symptoms and mental alteration in certain patients, which requires the ability to make a differential diagnosis and apply correct treatment. Psychiatrists need to have an excellent understanding of basic psychology and must possess psychotherapy skills to attempt to influence the patient's disorder with less medication. In fact, many psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and certain phobias may be effectively treated through psychotherapy. Medication in psychiatry is used only when counselling and therapy fail to produce noticeable results.

Psychiatrists are doctors who are dedicated to providing the best treatment and care for mental disorders with compassion and patience. They must have excellent communication skills and a high degree of emotional intelligence to understand the patient's emotional and mental problems and formulate the best course of action for their treatment. Unlike other fields of medicine, the treatment regimen in psychiatry may change significantly depending on the patient's response to medication or psychotherapy. With proper psychological, emotional and social support, many patients who have severe mental symptoms are able to improve and reconnect with society, which allows mental health professionals to lower medication dosages. In certain cases, relapse of symptoms may occur, which requires a new treatment strategy and elaboration of alternative therapies for a particular patient.

Psychiatrists treat a great variety of mental disorders ranging from mild and temporary to severe and chronic. For example, depression, which is a mental disorder that involves intense feelings of sadness and lack of motivation, may be effectively treated through psychotherapy, and does not require medication in all cases.

Mild depression may be a transient condition, and may be the result of emotional trauma and tragic events in the patient's life. Psychiatrists must be able to identify early signs of depression and find its roots, and then apply psychotherapy techniques and potentially antidepressants to treat the patient. Anxiety disorders are another common category of mental disorders that are addressed by psychiatrists. They involve unexplained fear, panic or phobias that are manifested in certain situations and greatly affect the patient's career, social life and mood. Along with depression, anxiety disorders are considered mild psychiatric disorders because they are usually temporary and respond well to treatment, which frequently results in full recovery.

Patients who suffer from hallucinations and delusions may have more severe psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. This mental disorder requires careful evaluation of each case, and is usually treated through medication. Although schizophrenia is considered a chronic mental disorder, there are many cases of effective recovery and elimination of medication in certain patients. Moreover, some patients who suffer from delusions may gradually reintegrate into society through psychotherapy, work and friendships, and are able to function as normal individuals on low doses of medication or no medication at all. The final results greatly depend on the ability of the psychiatrist to recognize the potential for a patient to recover and cope with his or her mental disorder.

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What is the workplace of a Psychiatrist like?

Psychiatrists usually work in hospitals, psychiatric clinics or other mental health institutions. They may also work at private medical offices. Primary care units and emergency departments usually don't have psychiatrists because mental disorder symptoms are not considered emergencies, although, if severe enough, they may require sedation until the patient is transported to a psychiatric clinic. Psychiatrists may also work part-time in prisons or other correctional facilities.

What are good qualities for a psychiatrist to have?

It's good for a psychiatrist to think of a patient in a holistic way, and to ask the patient about diet, exercise, sleep, relationships, support systems, and different stressors in their life in order to make an informed assessment and a proper evaluation.

It is also important for the psychiatrist to possess some degree of humility when speaking to the patient, even admitting to not knowing something if that is the case, and telling the patient that he will look into the matter. This shows a partnership and a collaboration with the patient, which will produce more success in the end.

It also goes without saying that a psychiatrist needs to be able to really listen to his/her client, and convey authentic concern, always being respectful of the patient's feelings.

What is it like being a psychiatrist?

A student will typically get into the field of psychiatry because it is almost like a calling to them. Psychiatry can be quite stressful sometimes, especially if one chooses to work with more acutely ill patients. But for the most part, the culture of this career tends to be more laid back than others. People who have psychiatric illnesses often need quite a bit of time in order to make positive changes and will tend to have a longterm relationship with their psychiatrist. Therefore, a psychiatrist needs to be patient and have a relaxed attitude, knowing that he or she will be having a long, intense relationship with the patient.

There are many choices of career paths within the psychiatric field, so one can choose a calm, predictable outpatient practice, or a busy acute inpatient unit or ER. One can construct a schedule as busy or as calm as one may like.

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

Both psychiatrists and psychologists conduct psychotherapy and research, but there are significant differences between the two professions.

The first difference is in education: a psychiatrist has a degree in medicine, and is a medical doctor, whereas the psychologist has a degree (a masters or a doctorate) in psychology. The second difference is that a psychiatrist can prescribe medication, whereas a psychologist cannot.

If you are trying to choose between the two careers, you will need to determine if you would prefer to assess, diagnose, treat and prevent mental illness and be able to prescribe medications to your patients (psychiatrist), or if you would prefer to conduct psychotherapy, administer psychological tests, and conduct research (a psychologist).

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Further Reading

  • Types Of Psychiatrists work.chron.com

    In the world of pop-culture stereotypes, a psychiatrist is usually a bespectacled analyst with a couch and a strong accent. In truth, psychiatrists are fully trained physicians who specialize in diseases and conditions of the mind, just as their peers treat diseases of the body. Although many are full-time therapists, psychiatry also has a number of sub-specialties representing alternative career paths.

  • What's The Difference Between A Psychologist And A Psychiatrist? psychology.about.com

    The terms "psychologist" and "psychiatrist" are often used interchangeably to describe anyone who provides therapy services. While psychologists and psychiatrists both conduct psychotherapy and research, there are significant differences between the two professions.

  • The Things You Should Know If You're Interested In Becoming A Psychiatrist www.huffingtonpost.com

    Before you take a step into the world of a psychiatrist, you should make sure it is really what you want to do.

  • An Overview Of A Career As A Psychiatrist psychology.about.com

    Psychiatry is one of the oldest medical specialty areas. The professional organization known as the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has been in existence for over 150 years. Learn more about a career as a psychiatrist in this brief overview.

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How to Become a Psychiatrist

Interested in becoming a psychiatrist? Here are your next steps.

  1. Take the Sokanu Career Test

    Would you make a good psychiatrist? Sokanu's free assessment reveals how compatible you are with a career across 5 dimensions!

    Take the free career test
  2. Get Hired

      Loading jobs...

    View all jobs →

    Would you like to post jobs on this career? Find the best candidates using Sokanu's new psychometric job platform. Visit employers.sokanu.com today.