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What is a Psychiatrist?

What is a Psychiatrist?

For many people, the word psychiatrist conjures images like these: a couch, a patient describing childhood memories, a doctor taking notes. 

Such talk therapy—known as psychotherapy—in an office setting is certainly a key part of psychiatry. Yet this medical specialty also reaches into courtrooms, clinics, hospitals, hospices, prisons and rehab facilities. Through a range of treatments, including talk therapy for individuals and groups, psychiatrists help people of all ages regain a sense of mental well-being. 

Treating—and preventing—mental illness 

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing, treating and preventing mental illness. They help patients resolve behavioral, emotional and mental issues—those that need only a few weeks of treatment as well as those requiring long-term care. 

For example, psychiatrists can help with: 

  • Feelings of hopelessness that don't go away. 
  • Hallucinations. 
  • Panic attacks. 
  • Specific illnesses, such as depression and schizophrenia. 
  • Substance addiction. 
  • Suicidal thoughts. 

Psychiatrists work with each patient to develop an individualized plan that is likely to include talk therapy, either alone or combined with other treatments. 

When needed, psychiatrists prescribe medications, some of which work by correcting chemical imbalances. Their professional authority to prescribe medication is one thing that distinguishes psychiatrists from psychologists. 

Years of advanced training 

After four years of medical school, psychiatrists must take an exam to acquire a state license to practice medicine. They then gain more specific expertise during their four years of residency—the first year in a hospital, caring for all kinds of patients, the next three mastering the skills necessary to treat mental illnesses. 

Many then pursue additional training to specialize in a particular area of psychiatry, such as children and adolescents, the elderly, pain, or sleep. 

Source: American Psychiatric Association 

To learn about psychiatrists at Lake Charles Memorial Health System, click here. >>