Not everyone is cut out to be a psychiatrist. At a minimum, you have to complete medical school plus specialty training in the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health conditions. Although a psychiatrist's main focus is to prescribe the appropriate medications to people suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues, many psychiatrists employ some of the techniques used in psychotherapy, so they also must be communicate well with patients.
It takes a lot going on upstairs to be a good psychiatrist. You have to be really good at school, because you'll be there -- a lot. First, you have to complete at least four years of undergraduate studies, followed by four more years of medical school, and then three to eight years of internship and residency. That's a lot of school just to be qualified to wear a lab coat.
Psychiatrists treat people who are under great emotional distress and, as such, need to be kind, gentle and empathetic. A warm demeanor is an excellent way to get people to talk more about themselves, which could provide valuable clues as to the cause of their turmoil, according to an article titled "Good Psychiatrists Should..." by Eugene Rubin on the Psychology Today website. If your patients don't trust you, they may not comply with your recommendations, and even the brightest psychiatrists could fail. If you don't like people, your bad attitude will shine from you like a lighthouse beacon.
If your patients don't see you as an authority figure, they will not trust you and therefore may not take their prescribed medications. Citing the latest research in an authoritative yet easy-to-understand way, as well as relying on your own experience, skills, knowledge and talents will get your point across, according to the article in Psychology Today. New and expensive treatments should be avoided if older, proven and more economical treatments are also effective. Passing on your knowledge to colleagues, as well as patients, is also an essential job function.
To run an efficient and effective practice, a psychiatrist must be able to interact well with all members of the total treatment team including primary care physicians, psychologists, social workers, nurse practitioners, and counselors, according to Rubin. A psychiatrist must be able to communicate in a way that is understandable to those in other disciplines and laypersons, as well as to their fellow psychiatrists. Behind-the-scenes, a psychiatrist relies on an office manager to make payments to employees, enter the correct treatment codes for insurance purposes and even to pay the light bill, but ultimately a psychiatrist is responsible for making sure all of these functions are completed correctly, so good management skills are essential.
- Psychology Today: Good Psychiatrists Should . . .
- A Guide to Psychology and Its Practice: Psychology and Psychiatry
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011: Psychiatrists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physicians and Surgeons
Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.