How a Psychiatrist Can Help

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD or DO) who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. As physicians, psychiatrists have the knowledge to differentiate between a psychiatric illness versus a medical illness that may present itself with psychiatric signs or symptoms, such as hypothyroidism. With expertise in neurology required as part of Board Certification, the Board Certified psychiatrist has insight into the relationships between brain, body, behavior and emotions.

As physicians, psychiatrists are trained to diagnose and treat mental illness, review medical records, examine patients, order medical tests, analyze laboratory reports, take medical and psychiatric histories, prescribe medication and understand how medications function and interact.

In addition to being a trained physician who integrates the various domains of biology, physiology and pathology, the psychiatrist utilizes psychotherapeutic concepts and techniques, which are a central part of the psychiatrist’s thinking. Psychotherapy skills are utilized to inform all aspects of the patient’s treatment, including the initial history taking and evaluation of the presenting problem, ongoing treatment, and possible pharmacological treatment.

As psychotherapists, the psychiatrist forms an alliance with the patient, to gain an understanding of cognitive and behavioral problems, in order to promote healthier problem resolution, healing and recovery.

The psychiatrist thus combines the skills, knowledge and mindset of both physician and psychotherapist, to evaluate and treat the patient as a whole person.

Harvard Mental Health Letter, October, 1996
Practice Guidelines, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing Group, 1995

The Mission of the American Psychiatric Association
  • To promote the highest quality care for individuals with mental disorders (including mental retardation and substance-related disorders) and their families
  • To promote psychiatric education and research
  • To advance and represent the profession of psychiatry
  • To service the Professional needs of its membership
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