8 Frequently Asked Questions About Psychiatrists

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What is the difference between a psychiatrist and psychologist?

Psychiatrists are medically trained to treat mental health. Sometimes physical illness or biological imbalances can trigger mental illness and their medical background allows them to take blood, order certain tests and prescribe medications. Psychologists tend to focus on the psychlogical mechanisms of behavior. 

Do psychiatrists ever work with psychologists?

Sometimes, as in hospitals or clinical settings, the two professions work closely together, with psychiatrists recommending psychological therapies and vice versa. Some mental illnesses seem to benefit more from a combination of medical and psychological interventions. 

Are there specialist psychiatrists?

Yes. Psychiatry is a medical specialty but there are sub-specialties in which a psychiatrist may choose to focus on a particular issue, such as addiction, family therapy, geriatric psychiatry or schizophrenia. 

How do psychiatrists work?

Many psychiatrists work as part of a team, but they can also work alone in private practice. They work in hospitals, clinics, outpatient facilities, community teams and sometimes in large private organizations, as well as with military services.

How do I get to see a psychiatrist?

There are different routes. It’s often a good idea to visit your family doctor first and explain your symptoms and the reasons you feel a visit to a psychiatrist would be useful. He or she  may first run some tests in order to assess whether there is a physical cause for the way you are feeling. 

What will the psychiatrist ask me?

The questions are likely to be very practical. They will be interested to know why you’ve come to see them. They will probably pick up on the information you volunteer in order to get a broader picture about you, your life and background, as well as the specific issues you have come to see them about. Basically they will try to establish a sense of you as a person. 

What should I ask them?

Ask them about the things on your mind. If you’ve received a diagnosis, get information about what it means. Ask about your treatment, medication, in fact anything relating to your situation and recovery. 

Can they lock me up?

You are probably thinking about emergency hospitalization for evaluation (the psychiatric hold). Typically this is for a short-duration of no more than 72 hours and is only applied in the most extreme periods of mental health crisis where someone is perceived as being a danger to himself or others. The Treatment Advocacy Center has more information about state laws in this regard.