What is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a doctor who is trained to work in understanding, diagnosing and treating any ailments pertaining to the mind and brain. In order to become a psychiatrist, one has to complete four years of medical school training, as well as another four years of psychiatry residency training. Psychiatry residency is which is a specialized training program designed to educate a doctor in psychiatry; during this training, the doctor works in the settings of neurology and medicine to first establish a baseline medical understanding of the patient. She is then exposed to psychiatric ailments in various areas, such as in the inpatient psychiatric units, outpatient clinics, consultation services on the medical wards, child and adolescent units, etc. Some training programs, such as Dr. Iyer’s program in New York, also provided the unique opportunity to work with veterans.

Being a practicing psychiatrist means lifelong learning as well. That means that the studying doesn’t stop when school stops; instead, psychiatrists need to demonstrate several hours of ongoing and continuing medical education. Every few years, she will need to take a recertification exam to maintain her board-certified status. This ensures that your provider will maintain a knowledge base that is inclusive of the latest research, developments and efficacious practice models.

Psychiatrists have many tools available to them to help patients make deep and meaningful changes and progress in their lives. Psychiatrists are able to perform psychotherapy and also can utilize medications when needed. They are also able to formulate an understanding of the patient that involves an in depth analysis of the patient’s biological, social and psychological situations. For example, chronic pain, head injury, or cardiac disease are common medical ailments that often have psychiatric implications and associations. A psychiatrist can evaluate your medical issues and understand the complex relationship between these and the psychiatric symptoms, ensuring that the entire picture is understood and that all medical issues/medications are known prior to safe prescription of medications.

There are several optimal methods of achieving good patient care. Most psychiatrists have been trained in understanding how to apply the “team approach”. That means that, in conjunction with working with the patient and with a patient’s written consent, a psychiatrist is able to communicate and collaborate with the patient’s other doctors, friends and family members. For example, if I have a pregnant patient who is suffering from depression, I will often ask for permission to speak with the treating OBGYN. This way, I can obtain the OB’s office notes to make sure she is gaining weight appropriately, has no other complicating medical issues that arise during her pregnancy, etc. In my experience, a collaborate, compassionate approach with a patient is best; how I typically describe this is that, while I can support, explore and educate, the patient ultimately holds the reins to his/her own treatment.

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto.com

DISCLAIMER: All information and content in this post are for informational purposes only. The author does not provide any medical advice on the site, and the information should not be so construed or used. Nothing contained in the site is intended to create a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a licensed, trained physician or health professional or to be a substitute for medical advice of a physician or trained health professional licensed in your state. The information expressed here are the views of  Dr. Iyer only and are not the opinions of any hospitals or academic facilities with which Dr. Iyer has an affiliation. You should consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health. 

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