Psychiatry is the medical specialty which deals with the treatment of behavioural and emotional disorders. Psychiatrists are medical graduates who have continued their training for a further six years through to fellowship level. Much of their post-graduate experience is spent in various teaching hospitals, focusing upon different types of behavioural and emotional illness. The practice of psychiatry differs from clinical psychology in two major respects: one, psychiatrists are medical doctors; and two, they are permitted to prescribe medication in their treatment programs for their patients.
Psychiatrists consult with patients who present with a wide range of clinical conditions. Some of the most common are anxiety, depression and relationship dysfunction, but there are also a range of psychotic conditions, including schizophrenia and manic-depressive or bipolar disorder which usually involve medication prescription. Psychiatrists can have sub-specialty interests, for example, child and adolescent or geriatric (the elderly) groups. Some psychiatrists focus particularly upon occupational emotional illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is fair to say that there are likely to be emotional elements in almost every type of serious organic disease and psychiatrists can liaise with their colleagues in other specialties to offer the best clinical approaches.
A referral from a GP or other medical practitioner is usually necessary for a patient to be seen by a psychiatrist. A comprehensive intake interview is usually conducted during the first session and, depending upon the outcome of this session, a treatment program can be formulated, which might include the use of medication and/or various psychotherapeutic or talking therapies. The patient’s GP or referring doctor is generally kept closely informed about the progress of the referred patient.