A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who studies, treats, and diagnoses mental health conditions. Psychiatrists are the only mental health professionals who may prescribe psychiatric medications, although some mental health professionals may prescribe medication under the direction of a psychiatrist. Family physicians and other general practice medical providers are authorized to prescribe psychiatric drugs, though they may not have the necessary training to diagnose all mental health conditions.
What Kind of Training do Psychiatrists Get?
Psychiatrists must attend medical school. After completing medical school, they complete a four-year psychiatric residency during which they learn about the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Psychiatric residencies are frequently completed at psychiatric hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, or on psychiatric wards at general hospitals.
What Can Psychiatrists Specialize In?
Psychiatrists may choose to specialize in a number of fields, including:
What Do Psychiatrists Do?
Most psychiatrists do not offer psychotherapy. Rather, they are consulted with by clients in conjunction with a psychotherapist to help determine medication dosing and medical causes for psychiatric conditions. Some psychiatrists, however, also obtain advanced degrees in psychology and perform psychotherapy. Not all psychiatrists see clients. Some focus solely on research, advocacy, and cross-cultural studies of psychiatric conditions.
Criticism of Psychiatry
The field of psychiatry–and psychiatrists themselves–are perhaps the most frequently criticized mental health practitioners. Even among mental health specialists, psychiatrists may be criticized as being too quick to prescribe medication, too slow to look at lifestyle and environmental factors that contribute to mental health conditions, and too wedded to the medical model of psychological treatment. Several advocacy groups have focused on perceived overmedication of children in particular.
Last updated: 10-2-2012