What is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical physician who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses, including substance abuse and addiction. Psychiatrists are uniquely qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological disturbance. Their medical education has given them a full working knowledge of the many causes for a patient’s feelings and symptoms. Armed with this understanding, psychiatrists can make a complete, accurate diagnosis and then recommend or provide treatment.

State of the art treatment for mental illness is very effective—as effective as treatments for high blood pressure, cancer, and arthritis. Psychiatric treatment involves a full mental and physical health evaluation and an individualized treatment plan, which may include psychotherapy (talk therapy), medication, other modalities, or a combination, depending upon the personalized needs of the patient.

Because psychiatrists are medical doctors, they can also determine whether there is a need for medication to help restore imbalances in body chemistry that are often a large part of mental illnesses. Beware of any psychiatrist or other therapist who espouses one brand of treatment as the only one that works. As with any other physician, ask about the benefits and risks of the treatment program outlined by the psychiatrist.