What is a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has had at least 4 years of training in a psychiatry residency program after college and medical school.  The extensive training in a medical school and a psychiatric residency program allows psychiatrists to specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental health and emotional problems.  Psychiatrists understand the body’s functions and the complex relationship between psychiatric disorders and other medical illness.  The psychiatrist is thus the mental health professional and physician best qualified to distinguish between physical and psychological causes of both mental and physical distress.  

How do psychiatrists tell what is wrong with their patients?

Psychiatrists are physicians and can order or perform a full range of medical and psychological tests that provide a complete picture of a patient’s physical and mental state.  Their education and years of clinical experience equip them to understand the complex relationship between emotional and other medical illnesses, evaluate the entire medical and psychological data, make a diagnosis, and develop a treatment plan.

What treatments do psychiatrists use?

Psychiatrists use a wide variety of treatments – including various forms of psychotherapy, medications, and hospitalization – according to the needs of each patient.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a systematic treatment method in which, during regularly scheduled meetings, the psychiatrist and patient discuss troubling problems and feelings.  The physician helps patients understand the basis of these problems and find solutions.  Depending on the extent of the problem, treatment may take just a few sessions over one or two weeks, or many sessions over several years.

Psychiatrists use many forms of psychotherapy.  There are psychotherapies that help patients change behaviors or thought patterns, psychotherapies that help patients explore the effect of past relationships and experiences on present behaviors, psychotherapies that treat troubled couples or families together, and more treatments that are tailored to help solve other problems in specific ways.*

How often do I have to come for appointments?

For children and adolescents who are started on certain medications it is recommended that you are seen on a weekly basis for the first month and then every two weeks for the next month.  After the first two months if you are doing well then the appointments may be once a month.

Adults do not have to come as frequently as children and adolescents for medication management.  Initially you may have a two week appointment if you are started on medications but then once you are stable you would be required to come either once a month to once every three months.  If you are working on therapy goals then at least every two weeks is best.  

* The information provided for this answer is from: