Understanding Psychiatry

What is Psychiatry?

Psychiatry is the branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.

What qualifications do Psychiatrists have?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (an M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in mental health, including substance use disorders. Psychiatrists assess both the mental and physical aspects of problems. Psychiatric training requires 4 years of medical school and at least 4 years of residency training in medicine, neurology and general psychiatry. Psychiatric specialists use a knowledge of biological, psychological and social factors in working with patients. After completing residency training, most psychiatrists take a voluntary written and oral examination given by the American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology to become a "board certified" psychiatrist. They must be re-certified every 10 years. Psychiatrists are licensed to practice medicine state-by-state.

Some psychiatrists also complete additional specialized training after their 4 years of general psychiatry training, to become certified in: Child and adolescent psychiatry; Geriatric psychiatry; Forensic (legal) psychiatry; Addiction psychiatry; Pain medicine; Psychosomatic medicine; Sleep Medicine. Some psychiatrists also obtain additional training in specific types of psychotherapies or in research.

Even though most college students are adults, child and adolescent psychiatrists have special training in development and in young adult conditions. These subspecialists often consult with other professionals, schools, residential settings, foster and adoption care, juvenile justice, social agencies and other community organizations, which is similar to campus-based treatment.

How do Psychiatrists make diagnoses?

Because they are physicians, psychiatrists can order or perform a full range of medical laboratory and psychological tests, which, combined with patient discussions, can help provide a picture of what is going on. Specific diagnoses are made through direct observation, patient question-and-answer, and collateral history. Diagnoses are based on criteria established in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

A comprehensive diagnostic examination is performed to evaluate the current problem with attention to its physical, genetic, developmental, emotional, cognitive, educational, family, peer and social components.

The diagnosis and the treatment plan which considers all these components are discussed in recommendations with the patient.

What treatments do Psychiatrists use?

Psychiatrists use a variety of treatments, like psychosocial interventions, medications, psychotherapies and other interventions, depending on the needs of each individual patient.

There are many forms of psychotherapy, or "talk therapies." All psychiatrists at SHC practice supportive psychotherapy, described as a practical method of dealing with emotional issues or life problems. Most psychiatrists are also skilled in other specialized forms of psychotherapy. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fighting-fear/201306/supportive-psychotherapy

Medications are prescribed by psychiatrists the same way cardiologists prescribe medications for heart problems or how oncologists treat cancer. Psychiatric medications can help correct brain chemistry imbalances that are thought to be involved with mental health conditions. The majority of psychiatric medications need to be taken every day for a period of time recommended by the psychiatrist.

What qualifications do psychologists who provide psychotherapy have?

There are 54 divisions in the American Psychological Association, reflecting the diverse field of studying the human mind. For practical purposes, a psychologist who provides psychotherapy will be qualified by a doctoral degree (PhD, EdD or PsyD) that takes, on average, 5-7 years to earn. Most psychologists we work with through SHIP are Clinical Psychologists (http://www.apa.org/about/division/div12.aspx; http://www.div12.org/) and Clinical Neuropsychologists (http://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/neuro.aspx). Many college psychologists are Counseling Psychologists (http://www.apa.org/about/division/div17.aspx; http://www.div17.org), and therapy may also be provided by any California licensed psychologist described within the 54 divisions.

What qualifications do therapists (LMFT, LCSW, LPCC) who provide psychotherapy have?

All licensed practitioners described have completed the necessary steps required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences and have earned a master’s degree (3-5 years average completion) from an accredited graduate school. Some may have doctoral degrees but practice under a master’s-level license. Many go on to develop their own style and areas of specialty beyond initial training.

A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) is a mental health professional whose theoretical training is grounded in examining interpersonal relationships to promote growth in individuals, families, and relationships which make up a healthy society. Unlike a common misconception, LMFTs provide individual care, not just marital and family therapy.

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who practices psychotherapy is a mental health professional whose theoretical training is grounded in knowledge of social resources, human capabilities, and unconscious motivations in determining behavior directed at helping people to achieve more adequate, satisfying and productive social adjustments.

A Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) is a mental health professional whose training is focused in individual mental health growth, unless the provider has sought extra training to treat couples and families. LPCCs use counseling and psychotherapy techniques to empower individuals to deal adequately with life situations, reduce stress, experience growth, change behavior and make well-informed, rational decisions. (From http://www.bbs.ca.gov/pdf/publications/lawsregs.pdf)