A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who works to prevent, diagnose and/or treat mental, emotional and behavioral problems. A psychiatrist's medical training allows him to look for physical causes for your problems and order medical tests and prescription drugs, while conducting talk therapies.
The work of psychologists and psychiatrists is often confused. The biggest difference, though, is the medical degree a psychiatrist must earn in order to be licensed and certified. A psychologist may earn a PhD, meaning he may be addressed as "doctor," but that is not the same as a MD, or medical doctor, earned by a psychiatrist.
A Psychiatrist's Training and Credentials
Psychiatrists complete four years of medical school plus four years in a psychiatry residency program. Their education requires time spent in classrooms, medical offices and hospitals, working directly with patients and other medical professionals.
There are two forms of residency programs: one leads to a medical doctor (MD) and the other leads to an osteopathic doctor (DO). Both programs require a similar amount of education but focus differently; a MD practices allopathic medicine, considered to be conventional medicine in the United States, and a DO learns more about the human musculoskeletal system.
Some psychiatrists choose to specialize in areas, such as child psychiatry or forensic psychiatry.
Since psychiatrists are medical doctors, they may also be certified members of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology or the American College of Osteopathic Neurologists and Psychiatrists. Board membership requires frequent recertification, and to accomplish that, the psychiatrist must complete annual Continuing Medical Education (CME) requirements.
How to Choose the Right Psychiatrist for You
To find the right fit between you and your psychiatrist, you'll want to identify possibilities, research credentials and then assess the doctor's capabilities for partnership.
It is important to understand that good psychiatrists are at a premium in the United States. Don't be alarmed if it is difficult to identify a good psychiatrist. You may want to discuss your needs with your primary care physician. You may learn that a different type of mental health provider may be an appropriate next step. Many of the steps listed here will help you find a good psychologist as well.
Make a List of Possibilities
Compare these lists to find names in common with your needs. Those will be the psychiatrists you want to spend time learning about by researching their credentials and capabilities.
Research a Psychiatrist's Credentials
Using the list of names you have chosen, look for the following information on UCompareHealthCare.com:
Assess a Psychiatrist's Capabilities
Once you have vetted your list based on the criteria above, you'll want to ask the following questions to determine which doctors are worth meeting:
If you are satisfied with your answers, make an appointment and consider these other questions:
Finding the right psychiatrist may seem like a long, involved process, however, knowing that this doctor may partner with you for a lifetime makes it worth your time and effort.
Guide to Patient Empowerment, About.com
Learn more about finding the right Psychiatrist for you at About.com.