A psychiatrist is a physician (medical doctor) that specializes in psychiatry, a medical specialty that deals with the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders of the mind, emotions, and behavior. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PSYCHIATRIST AND A PSYCHOLOGIST?
The longstanding practical difference between psychiatrists and psychologists has been that psychiatrists could prescribe medications whereas psychologists could not. However, times are rapidly changing and psychologists in some states are allowed to prescribe medications in certain situations, with appropriate training and supervision by a psychiatrist. The main intervention used by psychiatrists is medication whereas the main intervention of psychologists is psychotherapy (a psychological therapy done through talking). Although some psychiatrists use psychotherapy, most do not, or do so in a limited fashion. Another difference between psychiatrists and psychologists is that psychologists focus more broadly on normal mental processes and behavior.
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DO ALL PSYCHIATRISTS TAKE THE SAME BASIC APPROACH?
No. Psychiatrists vary according to what they believe to be the causes of mental illnesses. Some believe the causes are due to biological factors such as an improper balance of chemicals in the brain. Others believe that social factors such as our relationships with others and/or early life experiences are the main cause. Others believe that the way way people think is the main cause (e.g., thinking negatively leads to depression). Most psychiatrists appreciate the roles that each of these factors play in mental illness but most psychiatrists use medication as the main form of treatment. Some psychiatrits also do counseling but most refer out to psychologists or other counselors for this type of work. HOW DO I CHOOSE A PSYCHIATRIST?
One of the best sources for finding a good psychiatrist is from a healthcare provider that you trust. Also, many medical schools and medical centers have psychiatry departments and can provide you with the names of psychiatrists with private practices. Social workers, psychologists, church officials, and school guidance counselors may also be able to refer you to a psychiatrist in your area. Friends and family members may also have a recommendation. Ideally, the psyhiatrist should be board certified since board certification has become a standard in the field of medicine. The psychiatrist that is board certified has been agreed upon by a board (group) of peers (other psychiatrists) to meet the rigorous standards necessary to practice psychiatry. Any psychiatrist can apply to the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to become board certified.
WHERE DOES THE WORD PSYCHIATRIST COME FROM?
Psychiatrist comes from the Greek word "psyche" meaning "mind" and the Greek word "iatreia" meaning "medical specialty." Put the two words together and you have "medical specialty (of the) mind."