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What is a Psychiatrist?
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What is a Psychiatrist?


A psychiatrist is a physician (a medical doctor--either an MD or a DO) who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental, addictive, and emotional disorders.

Psychiatrists are trained in the medical, psychological, and social components of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and utilize a broad range of treatment modalities, including diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, psychotherapy, and helping patients and their families cope with stress and crises. Psychiatrists increasingly work in integrated settings and often lead or participate on treatment teams and provide consultation to primary care physicians and other medical specialties.

Educational requirements

A psychiatrist 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.

Board certification

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 doctorial degree from a university or a professional school, a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosphy) 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.

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