Psychiatrists are trained doctors who are able to treat, diagnose and manage mental illnesses and disorders, utilizing treatments like counseling, therapy and the prescription of medication.

Watch an Overview of Psychiatry

About Psychiatry

Psychiatrists are physicians trained to diagnose, treat, prevent and manage mental illnesses, disturbances, and behaviors using a variety of treatment techniques. Mental illness, whether mild or severe, is said to affect anywhere from 25% - 50% of the general population – psychiatrists serve as primary care providers for the mind, working to prevent mental illness as much as to treat it. Psychiatrists provide care similar to that of psychologists, but hold a medical degree and are licensed to prescribe medications.

When diagnosing patients, psychiatrists are trained to examine all aspects of a patient’s life that may be contributing to mental illness or instability – this includes incorporating the social, biological, and psychological elements of a patient’s life. To that extent, patients under the care of a psychiatrist may be treated on an inpatient or outpatient basis. When diagnosing patients, psychiatrists perform a mental status exam (MSE) to understand and document the state of mental health in the patient. During the exam, the psychiatrist will observe the patient’s speech, thought process, appearance, behavior, insight, affect, judgment and cognition.

Psychiatrists treat a range of conditions, including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), ADD, ADHD, addiction, anger issues, and many other mental conditions. Because psychiatrists are trained physicians, they are able to dispense medication in the treatment of patients, which is one of the most common types of treatment. Psychiatrists usually provide a mix of treatment techniques when providing care, which may include psychotherapy (discussions with patients), electrotherapy, and/or neurostimulation techniques.

Psychiatry Education & Training

Training to become a psychiatrist begins with the completion of a bachelor’s degree (typically in psychiatry, neurology, biology, or psychology) before attending medical school. After being awarded an MD or DO degree from an accredited medical school, the physician must be accepted into a residency program.

Residency training for a psychiatrist typically lasts three to four years; the physician will gain hands-on experience in psychiatric care while under the supervision of experienced, licensed psychiatrists. During the residency the physician will learn how to provide comprehensive behavioral health care in clinical settings, including diagnostic and treatment procedures for a variety of psychiatric and behavioral conditions.

Some psychiatrists may choose to pursue additional training to specialize in fields such as child psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, adolescent psychiatry or forensic psychiatry, among other fields. After completing a residency program, the psychiatrist must complete state licensure requirements. Some psychiatrists may choose to take a certification examination from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN).