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.
DO ALL PSYCHIATRISTS TAKE THE SAME BASIC APPROACH?
No. Psychiatrists vary according to what they believe to be the causes of mental
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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."