What is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who treats mental illnesses. It is an excellent career to pursue for doctors who want to focus on curing and managing mental illness. Counselors or other mental health professionals who want career advancement may also decide to pursue this profession. Below is some additional information about psychiatrists and what they do.

What Psychiatrists Do

Psychiatrists focus more on the medical aspects of curing or managing mental illness in patients as opposed to the mental and emotional aspects. They focus on the complex connections that ailments of the mind and body have on each other. They diagnose patients and prescribe medication, in addition to pursuing other treatment options. Recognized mental disorders are listed in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which psychiatrists use to diagnose conditions. They also may perform tests on patients to see if any physiological conditions are present. Most psychiatrists work in private clinics or hospitals and generally must be on call when patients need them, which can result in long or odd hours.

Psychiatrist Qualifications

Because psychiatrists are doctors, they receive all medical training that regular physicians do and are required to hold an M.D. To start with, they complete a bachelor’s degree. They go to medical school for four years after that, and depending on the program may be able to specialize in psychiatry. They then do a two-year residency after completing medical school to get their degree in psychiatry. All states require psychiatrists to be licensed in order to practice, which usually requires some level of continuing education to remain current and legal. It is also necessary for psychiatrists to remain knowledgeable about new methods of diagnostics, new treatments, changes in condition classification and more.

Psychiatrist Skills

To become a good psychiatrist, you will need to have better interpersonal skills and higher levels of empathy than regular doctors. Your patients will be mentally ill and coming to you in times of severe distress. You will need the communication skills to connect with them and get them to trust you so you can help them. It is imperative for psychiatrists to be kind, understanding and welcoming to patients in their practice. They must be able to speak with patients and their families about care and explain treatment options in a way that patients can understand. They also must be good problem solvers and critical thinkers in order to diagnose conditions and put together treatment plans.

The Difference Between Psychiatrists and Psychologists

Many students are confused by these two professions, because they not only sound similar but are very similar in actuality. While psychiatrists pursue a medical degree, psychologists pursue a Ph.D. or Doctorate of Psychology (Psy.D). Both careers involve counseling patients with mental illness, although psychologists cannot prescribe medications in most states. Psychiatry is a highly paid profession, with a median annual salary of $195,180 according to PayScale, although psychologists have high salaries as well. The two professions generally work together and a single patient may actually see both a psychiatrist and a psychologist simultaneously.

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Psychiatry is an intricate, intimate and unique profession within the medical field and is projected to remain in demand. If this sounds like a career you want to pursue, begin charting your career path to becoming a psychiatrist.