What is a Psychiatrist? A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the
diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses,
including substance use disorders. Psychiatrists are
qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of
psychological disturbance. A psychiatrist has completed
medical school (is an M.D. or D. O.) and an additional four
or more years of residency training in psychiatry.
People seek psychiatric help for many reasons. The
problems can be sudden, such as a panic attack,
frightening hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, or hearing
“voices.” Or they may be more long-term, such as feelings
of sadness and hopelessness or anxious feelings that
never seem to lift, causing everyday life to feel distorted or
out of control.
Choosing A Psychiatrist You can begin with your own physician. Tell your doctor
what you are feeling. If, after a thorough physical
examination to check whether any other medical illnesses
may be contributing to your symptoms, the doctor
recommends psychiatric treatment, ask for the names of
two or three psychiatrists. You should also request a copy of
your medical records for the psychiatrist to examine.
Your local medical or psychiatric society, community
mental health center, and medical school are also good
sources for referrals to psychiatrists. Of course, you might
also seek the advice of family, friends, colleagues, or
members of your church.