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What You Should Know Before Seeing a Psychiatrist
Whether you have been given a referral to a psychiatrist for a specific mental health condition or are researching potential diagnosis and treatment for an issue that has arisen, deciding on a provider can be difficult to navigate. By learning more about the practice of psychiatry and what to expect during psychiatric treatment, a more informed and confident decision can be made.
Things to know before a psychiatrist visit
How do psychiatrists differ from psychologists?
When an individual receives a referral or is researching treatment options for a mental health disorder, the choice between care providers in the field of psychology versus the field of psychiatry can be confusing. Both providers must earn higher-level degrees to specialize in their chosen fields, but psychiatrists must also earn a degree as a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) and complete a residency in psychiatry before practicing.
Since psychiatrists are also medical doctors, they have access to some areas of treatment that are not available to a psychologist, such as treating both the physical and the mental aspects of a mental disorder and the ability to prescribe medicine if necessary.
How do psychiatrists diagnose mental health conditions?
The balance of the physical and mental symptoms of a mental health condition can be a delicate one, but a psychiatrist can maneuver this balance using a variety of diagnostic techniques. Through a series of interview and therapy sessions, the provider can compare gathered information with resources such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to work on a diagnosis. Other information can also be gathered and used to gain a complete picture of the patient’s mental state:
- Family history
- Genetic testing
- History of substance abuse
- Laboratory testing
- Physical medical conditions
How do psychiatrists treat mental health conditions?
Psychiatrists are able to treat mental health disorders using advanced methods in both the psychiatric and medical fields. Treatment often involves talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy or more advanced therapies such as psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. In many cases, medication can be used in conjunction with therapy to treat disorders that are a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. More intensive medical treatments could include brain stimulation, nerve stimulation or electroconvulsive treatments.
What is a typical day in a psychiatric practice?
Although a typical day in the job of a psychiatrist can vary greatly depending on the type of practice, there are some consistencies and similarities throughout the field. Most days involve a mix of both scheduled and unscheduled appointments, since patients with mental health disorders might have unpredictable relapses or new symptoms. Psychiatrists working in teaching hospitals or other training locations spend part of the day training students, while others might spend time in psychiatric research.
Before an appointment with a psychiatrist, it can be important to understand what these medical professionals are able to do in terms of diagnosis and treatment. By learning more about the diagnostic and treatment process, a potential patient can feel more confident about proceeding with a recommendation or referral.
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