Medical Professions Resources Directory: Psychiatrist

How To Become a...

How To Become a Psychiatrist


A psychiatrist is a person who can help you treat and prevent mental illnesses and emotional problems. A psychiatrist should be able to understand the body's functions and the complex relationship between emotional illness and other medical illnesses. There are many reasons for someone to seek psychiatric help. Like some people might have panic attacks, hallucinations, thoughts of suicide or a voice inside their head that talks to them. People who seek psychiatric help feel out of control or feel that they are not worth living anymore.

Psychiatrist's can tell their patients what is wrong with them because they are also physicians. Psychiatrists can order or perform a full range of medical laboratory and psychological tests that provide a complete picture of a patients physical and mental state. A psychiatrist goes through years of clinical experience that teaches them how to understand the complex relationship between emotional and other medical illnesses, they can evaluate all the medical and psychological data, make diagnosis, and develop a treatment plan.

The treatments a psychiatrist uses to treat its patients varies from each patient. They can use psychotherapy, medications and hospitalization depending on the patients needs. A psychiatrist and the patient during a regular scheduled meeting will discuss troubling problems and feelings that goes on in the patients life. These treatments could take a couple sessions or sometimes over one or two weeks, or even up to year(s).

Psychiatrists use many forms of psychotherapy. These are psychotherapies that help patients change behaviors or thought patterns, psychotherapies that help patients explore the effect of past relationships and experiences on present behaviors, psychotherapies that treat troubled couples or families together, and more treatments that are tailored to help solve other problems in specific ways.

Psychiatrists can prescribe a number of medications that are effective against mental illnesses such as depression, manic-depression, panic disorder, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. Psychiatrists use medications when thorough evaluation of a patient suggests that medication may correct imbalances in brain chemistry that are thought to be involved in some mental disorders. Psychiatrists usually use medications in combination with psychotherapy.

A person wanting to become a psychiatrist must complete high school and college before entering medical school. While there is no requirement for a particular major, college students headed for medical school take required courses in the biological and physical sciences (general and organic chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics) as well as liberal arts courses. The prospective psychiatrist may also study social and psychological sciences and psychobiology. Most psychiatrists and other physicians feel that a liberal arts college education is the best preparation for medical school.In addition to chemistry, biochemistry and physiology, students take courses in psychiatry, behavioral science, and neuroscience in the first two years of medical school.

In the last two years, students are assigned to medical specialty "clerkships," where they study and work with physicians in at least five different medical specialties. They also have an opportunity to work with medical and surgical patients who may have psychiatric problems or who have difficulty coping with their illnesses. Because modern psychiatry places special emphasis on the relationship between mind and body, students pay special attention to issues of stress and physical illness, prevention and behavior change, in addition to learning to care for severely mentally ill patients. Newly graduated physicians take written examinations for a state license to practice medicine.

After graduation, doctors spend the first year of residency training in a hospital taking care of patients with a wide range of medical illnesses. The psychiatrist-in-training then spends at least three additional years in a psychiatric residency learning the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses, gaining valuable skills in various forms of psychotherapy and in the use of psychiatric medicines and other treatments. After completing their residency training, most psychiatrists take a voluntary examination given by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, to become a "board certified" psychiatrist.

Psychiatrists can become “sub specialists”. Many psychiatrists continue training beyond the initial four years. They may study child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, forensic (legal) psychiatry, administrative psychiatry, alcohol and substance abuser psychiatry, emergency psychiatry, psychiatry in general medical settings (called "consultation/liaison psychiatry"), mental retardation psychiatry, community psychiatry and public health, military psychiatry and psychiatric research. Some choose additional training in psychoanalysis at special psychoanalytic institutes.

Psychiatrist's career is diversity and flexibility. Although some psychiatrists prefer working only in one setting, others work in several areas, combining, for instance, a private practice with hospital or community mental health center work. because mental illnesses affect all races, ethnic groups and cultures, the specialty of psychiatry offers special opportunities for members of minority groups. Psychiatrists earn about the same as pediatricians and family physicians, depending on the type of practice, hours worked geographic location and whether the psychiatrist works in the public or private sector.






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