What It Takes to Become a Psychiatrist – Find out the Steps

Become a Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are doctors who treat patients with mental illnesses and issues. Several studies on human behavior and lifestyle changes have found that by 2020 psychiatrists will be the most wanted medical professionals. Therefore, if you are looking for a psychiatrist career in this profession, you will definitely have a brighter future and elevated growth. However, being in the medical realm is not that easy. You need to put in a lot of effort and time to become eligible and sought after psychiatrist doctor. If you are not quite sure where to begin, read this blog carefully. We will break down many things about the profession and provide you with the steps to become a psychiatrist.

Before you begin, learn the basics, such as what psychiatrists do, and what the difference between them and psychologists is.

What Psychiatrist Do

Psychiatrists treat patients with different mental medical conditions and problems, including schizophrenia, addiction, OCD, mood swings, depression, anxiety issues, and other mental issues. They use a variety of methods to treat the cause of the symptoms, such as medication, counseling, and psychoanalysis. A psychiatrist’s main work is to identify the type of medical condition patients have and the level of illness progress by assessing their behavior by talking to them regularly. Some of the key roles psychiatrists fulfill include:

  • Interview and examine patients by talking to them
  • Diagnose mental health issues
  • Prescribe medicines and other treatment
  • Follow-up by assessing the patient’s behavior
  • Alter medication dosage based on patients’ development
  • Provide both in-patient and out-patient therapy

Difference Between Psychiatrist And Psychologist

Both the terms are often interchanged, as both professions are is known to give therapeutic treatments to mental illness patients. However, in medicine, they are quite vast when it comes to their roles and the services they provide in terms of content and scope.

Psychiatrists, as we learned, are registered and certified medical doctors who are authorized to prescribe medications and provide psychotherapy to patients through medical and pharmacological assessment and diagnoses.

On the other hand, psychologists hold a doctorate degree in psychology (Ph.D. or PsyD) but they are not medical doctors. Therefore, they are not allowed to prescribe medications, rather provide only psychotherapy and counseling. Psychologists are often referred to as shrinks in urban language. They use cognitive and behavioral interventions to assess mental health and provide counseling. The sessions may last between 45 minutes and 2 hours, depending upon the requirement. Patients may need more than one session to get back to normalcy.

Psychologists need a graduate degree and pursue either a Ph.D. in Psychology or Doctor of Psychology to become a clinical practitioner. Their period of education may last from 5 to 7 years, including 2 years of internship.

Psychiatrists must have training in diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and assessment, just like any other physician, and in here, students must attend a medical school and receive an MD.

The two types of professions differ a lot, so you need to understand first which you want to be and start working towards it. The ideal time to make this decision is when you are completing your high school, just before you choose an undergraduate program to study. Or else, you will end up wasting potential years in studying for the wrong profession.

Steps To Become A Psychiatrist Doctor

Step 1: Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

In order to become a doctor, you must focus on pre-med preparation. Therefore, instead of opting for bachelors in psychology, which most students misunderstand and select, go for bachelors in science or sociology. Make sure you have the following subjects in your undergraduate program: biology, zoology, mathematics, anatomy, physiology, and chemistry.

Your undergraduate years will prepare you for the subjects you will elaborately study in your Mastering Science and Doctor in Medicine (MD). Make sure you talk to your school and ask for specific recommendations.

Although any bachelor’s degree is acceptable, majoring in science or pre-med will help you prepare better for the medical school. During your graduation, we recommend you to volunteer at hospitals or work with a psychiatrist doctor to gain the clinical experience needed. An internship will further boost your standing for medical school admission.

To prepare for your admission further, you can take an MCAT. This is a very important examination, and your score will most likely determine your acceptance in medical college.

Step 2:  Enroll In A Medical College And Get A Medical Degree

You have to get admitted to a medical school to become a doctor psychiatrist. You have to attend 4 – 5 years of medical training in advanced psychiatry to earn your degree (either MD or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine)). You will be referred to as a medical student by now. In the first two years, you will be introduced to the basics of different sciences, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, and biology. Lab work and lectures will be included in your courseware. You will also study pharmacology, psychology, medical laws and ethics in your first two years. Basically, you will learn all the fundamentals of medicines, both theory and practical, before you start your residency.

In the next 2 – 3 years, you will be put under rotational shifts in various hospitals, clinics, and other health care centers where you will work directly with doctors. In these two years, you must pick your specialization and work towards it. This is going to be an easy choice because you already know what you want to become.

During the final year, you have to apply for residency. Residency is a period of training in your selected specialty (psychiatry).

Step 3: Finish Your Residency Period

Learn and study as much as possible in the 5 years of medical school. The more you research, the more you invest, the better will the outcome be. After earning a medical degree, you have to complete your residency in either a clinic or a hospital. Do not forget to apply for residency at the beginning of the final year, or else, you will end up wasting valuable time in the application and submission process. Most psychiatric residency programs are 4 years long that entails a combination of didactic learning and real-life application.

In these four years, you will work with inpatient and outpatient under various sub-specialty areas. At the beginning of your tenure, you will work in general rotational shifts in areas such as family medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, and then move on to working in the neurology, forensic psychology, and chemical dependency division for some time.

The remainder of your residency period will be spent on psychiatry and your chosen electives.  In these years, you will assist doctors in a variety of cases, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, developmental disabilities, mood swings, OCD, and psychosis.

Step 4: Obtain A License To Practice Legally

After finishing your residency, you have to apply for licensure to practice psychiatry in all states or in your country. The license can be availed through your state’s medical board. Most countries have their own licensure requirements, the most common include passing an examination that tests your knowledge of medical practices and state regulations.

You may also have to obtain special permission if you disperse medication to your patients.

Step 5: Get Your Certification

Although being certified is not a mandatory obligation, but having a certificate can demonstrate your competence to your patients and could better your employment opportunities. You can get your board certification through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) or your respective country’s board of psychiatry. A simple internet search will help you with the necessary information. You can also find the details in the hospital you took up residency.

In the case of ABPN, the board offers certification in general psychiatry as well as specialization, including forensic psychiatry, adolescent, addiction, etc.

The certification is valid for 10 years. You can only renew your credentials if you stay active in your practice, have a good standing in your profession, participate in self-assessment programs, and involved in continuous education.

You will also be entitled to take interns and train them clinically after you get your license and certification.

When choosing a subject like psychiatric, you need to have a good work/life balance. Your graduation, as well as medical school, will be rigorous and strenuous. You have to invest significant time in studying, researching and learning. Unlike other careers, medical students have to put double the effort to become a successful doctor. Let’s not forget that your residency can be equally grueling and exhausting. You must feel comfortable in the medical setting and learn to understand human mind clearly. You will also be required to work long hours in hospitals and be available on-call.

How Psychiatrist Treat Patients

You will play an important role in patients’ good mental health, more so in the coming years. Very often, you will work along with Neurologists and Psychologists to provide the best treatment to the suffering patient. For instance, the psychologist may offer behavioral interventions and counseling, while you will provide medications and further clinical treatment.

Your treatment type and approach will depend on the patients’ condition and illness severity. Sometimes, you may have to work along with the patient’s preferences and provide the best treatment based on it, such as psychotherapy, medication or both.

Many psychiatrists practice privately or have their own practice, while only a few works in hospitals or clinics.

Having your own practice has several benefits – you set your own price, set your own work hours, can be available via phone or email, give your patients customized treatment, such as home visits. You can have your office within your home and set up a separate clinic. Since psychiatry does not involve any type of medical procedures, a small 20/ 20 sq. ft. the room will be more than sufficient to carry your practice.

However, keeping the ambiance pleasant and encouraging is very important to make patients feel good.

In case of a hospital job, you may work for long shifts, depending upon the hospital schedule. Although working in clinics may not pay you much, you will get to deal with patients who are in dire need of treatment, who do not have access to medical treatment otherwise.

You can also collaborate with different NGOs and investigating organizations, and help victims and witnesses to lead a better life after bad accidents and episodes.

Alternative Careers For Psychiatric Students

There is a number of other specialties you could choose to specialize apart from psychiatric. They include obstetrics and gynecology, anesthesiology, or surgery.

Obstetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN) focuses on women’s reproductive health, including pregnancy and other hormonal disorders. While Anesthesiology is the practice of administering drugs (anesthesia) to patients, so they are unable to feel sensation just before they are operated. Surgery is practicing a number of different procedures on patients, which often includes teaming up with other doctors.

Outstanding Qualities Of Psychiatrists

To be comfortable in treating people from different social and economic background is very important for a psychiatrist. Suffering from mental illnesses is definitely bad and people from different races, ages, and countries suffer. You should work upon the following qualities to set yourself apart from average psychiatrists:

  • Since you will be holding the secret to people’s mental health, you must possess humility. You will have conversations with all your patients to assess their mental condition. Therefore, if you want your conversations to be effective, be humble and supportive.
  • You must think holistically. A good psychiatrist does not just listen to what the patient has to say. He tries to find out more information for evaluation, including non-pharmaceutical methods like yoga, light therapy, and counseling.
  • Do not hesitate to consult other doctors, if you do not have answers. Exchanging ideas and strategies can reveal a lot more about a patient and treatment. In fact, consultation with other doctors may give you new directions.
  • You must have a breadth of knowledge to treat different patients with treatment solution instinctively. Psychiatry has considerable overlapping symptoms within and across the diagnostic categories. Therefore, the more you research and explore the more proficient you will become.

We have tried to cover everything relating to the profession. If you found the article useful please leave a comment below, and do not forget to share.