How to Become a Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are medical practitioners working in the area of mental health. Unlike psychologists, they're primarily involved in the medical aspects of care, including medication, hospitalization as well as psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.

Education and training

The primary entry requirement for the psychiatrist's training is a Bachelors degree. A psychiatrist's degree requires a further medical degree as a prerequisite for entry to psychiatry.  This involves four years successful qualification in general medicine, followed by four years residency involving comprehensive training in:

  • Supportive psychotherapy
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Diagnosis
  • Medical care issues
  • Cognitive behavioral training
  • Psychodynamic studies

After graduation, a resident must complete four months four months further medicine or pediatrics and two months of neurology in their first year of practice. The graduate then has to pass written and oral psychiatric board examinations.  The total time of post baccalaureate study is usually 8 years. 

The Work Environment

Psychiatrists operate as either clinical psychologists, providing general services, or specialists. Specialization requires additional training in these areas, which include:

  • Addiction psychiatry (Drugs, alcohol, prescription medicines)
  • Pediatric psychiatry (Children and adolescents, some psychiatrists specialize in one field.)
  • Learning disabilities (Therapy and special education methods.)
  • Psychotherapy (Similar to psychology work, but includes psychiatric options.)
  • Behavioral psychology (Study and treatment of aberrant behaviors.)
  • Psychopharmacology (medication therapy)
  • Disorders (Eating, sexual, mood, sleep or anxiety and post traumatic stress disorders)
  • Stress  management
  • Women's health
  • Forensic psychiatry (Psychiatric treatment and consultations related to crime or legal matters before a court.)
  • Geriatric psychiatry
  • Pain management

The psychiatrists work in all areas involves:

  • Consultation: This may include consultation with family members regarding related issues and situations. In serious cases, a patient may not be able to manage their life, and require support or hospitalization, which involves legal permission being granted. In some circumstances, a court may be required to rule on a patient's condition.
  • Diagnosis: Sometimes a very complex process of evaluation, monitoring, and prognosis. The psychiatrist must make a diagnosis based on both medical and psychological issues. 
  • Case management: Some forms of therapy may continue for years, or a patient's entire life. Psychiatrists, as medical practitioners, are must maintain medical records and supply case histories if required by law. 
  • Evaluation of medical options and alternatives: Treatments and case issues may involve both medical treatment and psychotherapy. The psychiatrist must evaluate the success or otherwise of treatments, and in some cases provide alternatives in cases where therapies are proving unacceptable or aren't achieving progress. 

Specialist Psychiatrists and Related Medical Practices

Many specialist psychiatrists are also advanced medical practitioners working in specific areas like neurology. They use a range of medical techniques like medical imaging and medical testing as part of their work. This may include MRI scans, Tomography and tests for analysis of related medical conditions.