Q. What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
Psychiatrists, like me, are medically trained to treat mental health. Sometimes physical illness or biological imbalances can trigger mental illness, and because I am a medical doctor (MD), I can order blood tests or other procedures, as well as prescribe medication. In addition, most psychiatrists provide therapy for their patients.
Psychologists, on the other hand, normally focus on how people behave. They are trained to administer psychological testing to help with diagnostic clarification, and to assess intellectual function and learning disabilities. Psychologists may also provide therapy for patients, but are not qualified to prescribe medication.
Q. Do psychiatrists ever work with psychologists?
Often we do work closely together, especially in hospitals and clinical settings. Together, our skills and knowledge bases can enhance treatment. Many mental illnesses can be treated more effectively through this combined approach.
In my practice, I often refer to psychologists for testing to clarify a diagnosis, or for a second opinion on a diagnosis. Psychologists often refer to me for medication evaluation and/or therapy.
Q. Are there specialists in psychiatry?
Psychiatry is itself a specialty, and there are subspecialties as well. These can focus on a particular issue, such as addiction, geriatrics or forensics. In addition to my training in general adult psychiatry, I completed a fellowship in pediatric psychiatry and I treat children over age 5.
Q. How does a psychiatrist work?
A psychiatrist can have his/her own private practice, as I do, or can belong to a group, either as a partner or an employee. Hospitals, clinics, outpatient facilities, community teams and our armed forces all employ psychiatrists.
Q. How do I get to see a psychiatrist?
A person can call our office directly, or can be referred by a primary care physician or other mental health professional.
Q. What will a psychiatrist ask me?
Questions are likely to be very practical. I am interested to know why you’ve come to see me, and will probably use information you volunteer to get a clearer picture of you, your life and background, and specific issues you have. Treatment is improved when I have a sense of who you are and where you are in your life.
Q. What should I ask my psychiatrist?
Ask anything relevant to your mental health. If you have received a diagnosis, you can get information about that diagnosis. You can ask about your treatment options or the course of your treatment, medications, or any other aspect of your mental health care.
Q. Can my psychiatrist lock me up?
In some emergency situations, hospitalization for evaluation (the psychiatric hold) is used. This is typically for no more than 72 hours, and is applied only in the most extreme periods of mental health crisis, when a patient is perceived to be a danger to themselves or others.
Q. Do you do emergency or urgent new evaluations?
Rarely. There is a national shortage of psychiatrists and most of us are overbooked. In most cases, urgent appointments can be arranged for established patients only.