What is Psychiatry?
Psychiatry is the branch of Medicine that deals with the mind. The mind is a theoretical construct that connects the brain and the soul. Both the brain and the soul influence each other in profound ways. Mental illness represents a disorder in this brain-soul continuum. The disorder manifests and/or is caused by disturbances in physical, emotional, mental, social and/or spiritual dimensions. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are specifically trained to diagnose and treat mental disorders within the context of the real, individual and total people who suffer from these disorders. Psychiatrists are specifically trained to be expert in all of the dimensions that can lead separately and additively to mental illness, including the physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual dimensions. Because of this training, Psychiatrists are specially qualified to treat people, not as diagnoses, not as diseases, but as real people.
Reflecting Psychiatry’s dedication to seeing patients as whole people whose problems often have multidimensional origins, Psychiatry’s treatment options are multidimensional and tailored to fit the patient’s individual needs. Thus medications may be prescribed based on the most current scientific knowledge from the burgeoning field of brain chemistry. Scientifically validated “Talk” therapies leading to emotional and behavioral change, may be utilized, taking into context the importance of a deep understanding of the patient’s life within a physical, social, environmental and spiritual sphere. In addition to medication and “Talk” therapies, Psychiatrists are active in spiritual counseling, meditation, hypnosis and other innovative techniques. For the minority of patients with especially severe problems, there are specialized treatments as well such as ECT (Electro-convulsive Therapy), and rTMS (repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), among others.
To become a psychiatrist, one must complete an M.D. or D.O. degree from an accredited school of medicine or osteopathy (or international equivalent). In order to obtain a license to practice medicine, physicians must a pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam, a multi-part professional exam sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Board of Medical Examiners. Psychiatrists must then complete at least 4 years of accredited residency training, including a minimum of 3 years in psychiatry.
After completing educational and examination requirements, psychiatrists may seek certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). The ABPN is a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Board certified psychiatrists have achieved the highest level of education and training possible in the field of psychiatry.
Psychiatrists seeking board certification must have an unrestricted license to practice medicine in the United States, must maintain a high standard of personal and professional conduct, and must meet standards set by the ABPN. They also must pass both a written and oral exam administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and must be re-certified every 10 years.
Subspecialty board certification requires additional training. Board-certifiable subspecialties include:
- Addiction Psychiatry
- Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Forensic Psychiatry
- Geriatric Psychiatry
- Pain Medicine
- Psychosomatic Medicine
- Sleep Medicine
Many people are confused about the difference between psychiatry and psychology
A psychiatrist has completed medical school and holds an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) degree or a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree. In Residency, he or she received specialized training in the field of psychiatry. As physicians, psychiatrists have achieved a rigorous medical education and abide by the medical traditions of professional ethics and medical responsibility for providing comprehensive care.
A psychologist may have completed a master's degree, or if fully licensed, holds a doctoral degree from a university or a professional school, a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or a Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology), or an Ed.D. (Doctor of Education). Generally, if he or she is in clinical practice, the degree will be in Clinical Psychology. Psychologists treat mental and emotional disorders with psychotherapy. Clinical Psychologists also specialize in psychological testing and evaluation.