A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioral conditions. They can prescribe medications and other medical treatments.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who’s an expert in the field of psychiatry — the branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
Psychiatrists assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological conditions. They can diagnose and treat these conditions.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can diagnose and treat mental health conditions. They can prescribe medications and other medical treatments.
A psychologist has a doctoral degree (PhD), typically in clinical psychology, and often has extensive training in research or clinical practice. Psychologists treat mental health conditions with psychotherapy (talk therapy). A psychologist can’t prescribe medication.
Psychiatrists typically treat more complex mental health conditions than psychologists, especially ones that require medication or medical treatments.
To give another perspective, psychology is the study of the mind, emotions and behavior; whereas psychiatry is the field of medicine focused on diagnosing and treating mental health conditions.
A therapist has a master’s degree in a mental health-related field such as psychology, counseling psychology or family therapy. They’re qualified to evaluate a person’s mental health and use therapeutic techniques, such as talk therapy. Examples of therapists include licensed social workers and licensed professional clinical counselors. A therapist can’t prescribe medication.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can diagnose and prescribe medicine and medical treatment for mental health conditions.
A neurologist is a medical doctor who diagnoses, treats and manages conditions of the brain and nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves). A neurologist knows the anatomy, function and conditions that affect your nerves and nervous system.
While neurologists and psychiatrists are both doctors that deal with conditions that affect your brain, a neurologist is more focused on the physical aspects and symptoms of the condition, and a psychiatrist is more focused on the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of the condition. Neurologists also diagnose and treat conditions that affect your nerves and spinal cord; a psychiatrist doesn’t work with these kinds of conditions.
Both doctors can prescribe medication, and both doctors may be involved with the management of certain conditions that affect your brain. For example, depression commonly occurs in people who have Parkinson’s disease or who’ve had a stroke.
A psychiatrist assesses, diagnoses and treats mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors and can order or perform a variety of medical and/or psychological tests. These tests, combined with conversations about symptoms and medical and family history, allow psychiatrists to diagnose mental health conditions.
Psychiatrists use criteria from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) to diagnose specific mental health conditions.
Psychiatrists also form individualized treatment plans, which can include psychotherapy (talk therapy), medication and other medical treatments.
Psychiatrists can diagnose and treat several conditions, including:
Psychiatrists use and prescribe a variety of treatments, including:
Treatment for mental health conditions is very individualized and unique to each person. Treatment often involves a combination of therapies.
Psychotherapy, often called “talk therapy” or “therapy” for short, is a treatment that involves talking with a trained mental healthcare professional to help identify and work through the factors that are affecting your mental health or may be triggering your mental health condition.
The goal of psychotherapy is to eliminate or control disabling or troubling thought and behavioral patterns so you can function better. Psychotherapy can be short-term or long-term depending on your symptoms and condition.
There are several different types of psychotherapy, including:
Psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help treat mental health conditions. These medications work to alter chemical signaling and communication within your brain, which can minimize some symptoms of certain psychiatric conditions.
Psychiatrists often prescribe medications in combination with psychotherapy.
Classes of medications that psychiatrists typically prescribe include:
Psychiatrists sometimes use other treatment therapies for certain psychiatric conditions, including:
Much less common treatments include:
Determining when to see a psychiatrist often requires a candid self-assessment of your symptoms and day-to-day experiences. While you shouldn’t try to self-diagnose any specific mental health conditions, you can become aware of and note behaviors, emotions and thought patterns that are unhealthy and disruptive to your everyday life.
While it can be difficult and overwhelming to seek help for mental health conditions, it’s essential to do so. Mental health conditions are very common, and your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
In some cases, your primary healthcare provider may refer you to a psychiatrist if you share your symptoms with them. But you can usually go directly to a psychiatrist for a diagnosis and treatment plan if you prefer.
Mental health episodes may happen randomly, infrequently or be constant. The important thing to remember is that if they’re negatively affecting your quality of life, it’s a clear sign you need to seek help.
If you have any of the following symptoms or experiences, you may want to consider seeing a psychiatrist or telling your primary healthcare provider:
Remember, there’s no shame in having or seeking help for a mental health condition. The sooner you seek help and treatment, the sooner you’ll feel better.
To get the most out of your appointment with your psychiatrist, it’s helpful to be prepared. Ways to prepare include:
It may be helpful to ask your psychiatrist the following questions during an appointment:
To become a psychiatrist, you must successfully complete:
After completing residency, most psychiatrists take a voluntary written and oral examination given by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to become a board-certified psychiatrist.
Some psychiatrists also complete fellowship programs to specialize in a particular area of psychiatry, such as child and adolescent psychiatry, which focuses on the mental health in the pediatric population, or consultation liaison psychiatry, which studies the interface of physical and mental health in the medical population.
Some subspecialties of psychiatry include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
While it can be overwhelming to acknowledge and seek help for a mental health condition, it’s essential you do. A psychiatrist can provide an accurate diagnosis and suggest treatment plans. They’re experts in their field and have up-to-date knowledge on research, medications and other treatment therapies that can help you. Your psychiatrist will work with you to determine a treatment plan that’s best for you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/10/2022.
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