A psychiatrist is a medical professional who focuses entirely on the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. This individual uses a variety of diagnostic tools to analyze the patient’s condition and symptoms to determine the root cause of the disorder. Depending on the results of the diagnostic tests, treatment options available include prescription medication, psychoanalysis, hospitalization, and psychotherapy.
Psychoanalysis focuses on the unconscious mind and its influence on behavior and thoughts. Patients meet with therapists on a regular basis for one-on-one discussions. Examining childhood experiences and identifying the effects they have on current behavior often plays a key role in psychoanalytic therapy.
Psychotherapy is an interactive process involving regular discussions between the mental health professional and the patient in an individual or group setting. The purpose of the discussions is to uncover the causes or triggers of psychological disorders. This type of therapy is goal oriented and aims to assist patients in developing the skills necessary to solve problems.
Unlike a psychologist, a psychiatrist holds a medical degree and has the authorization to prescribe medications for the treatment of patients when conditions call for it. In some patients, chemical imbalances can be the root cause of their psychological disorders. If this is the case, certain medications are effective in correcting those imbalances and allowing the individual to lead a normal life.
Some mental health professionals will specialize within the field of psychiatry. For example, child, adolescent, adult, and geriatric psychiatrists focus their attention on patients within a certain age group. Addiction psychiatrists work with patients suffering from problems associated with drug or alcohol abuse. Forensic psychiatrists work within the criminal justice system to determine if an accused person is mentally competent to stand trial.
To become a certified psychiatrist, a candidate must have a DO or MD degree issued by an accredited school of osteopathy or medicine. After completing a four-year residency with a minimum of three years specifically in psychiatry, candidates are required to take an exam with written and oral components. Those candidates who can successfully pass the examination are eligible to apply for certification through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, or ABPN. Certification renewal must take place every ten years but board certified professionals are authorized to practice anywhere in the United States.
Many of the professionals in this field maintain a private practice. This gives them full control over choosing their clientele and setting their own work schedule. Some psychiatrists find employment at hospitals, universities, governmental agencies, and mental health clinics. In addition to meeting personally with patients, these individuals may spend time consulting, researching, or teaching.
Individuals who experience overwhelming feelings of sadness, depression, suicidal thoughts, stress, or anxiety can benefit by seeking the help of a qualified psychiatrist. Patients who spend quality time with an experienced therapist forge a trusting relationship that helps them develop the coping skills they need to deal with problems in a constructive way. With the help of a mental health professional, patients can enjoy a better quality of life.