What is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who, after graduating from medical school, completed additional training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.  The average psychiatrist holds a four-year bachelor's degree followed by four years of medical school.  He or she then completed four to six years of residency and fellowship training alongside colleagues who were learning other medical specialties like surgery, family medicine or pediatrics.  On average, psychiatrists have about 16,000 hours of patient care experience by the time they finish their medical training.

What do psychiatrists do? 

  • Assess individuals for mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia
  • Evaluate people for substance use disorders like alcohol dependence and drug abuse
  • Identify cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia
  • Screen for medical problems that can cause emotional and behavioral disturbances
  • Order and interpret laboratory and imaging tests when needed
  • Treat common medical conditions and refer to other medical specialists when needed
  • Provide individual, family and group psychotherapy 
  • Prescribe and monitor the effects of psychiatric medications
  • Assess and work toward reducing the risk of suicide and violence toward others
  • Educate patients, their families, other medical specialists and the public about mental illness and treatment
  • Obtain informed consent from patients for the services they provide
  • Supervise therapists, doctors and other health professionals-in-training
  • Participate in psychotherapy, psychopharmacology and epidemiology research
  • Assist courts in decisions related to civil and criminal proceedings involving people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders
  • Assist political leaders in developing rational mental health policies
  • Advocate for improved treatment access and the elimination of stigma against those with mental illness
  • Collaborate with patients, caregivers, agencies and other professionals to provide care for the whole person