Psychiatrists use a wide variety of treatments – including various forms of psychotherapy, medications, and hospitalization – according to the needs of each patient.
Psychotherapy is a systematic treatment method in which, during regularly scheduled meetings, the psychiatrist and patient discuss troubling problems and feelings. The physician helps patients understand the basis of these problems and find solutions. Depending on the extent of the problem, treatment may take just a few sessions over one or two weeks, or many sessions over several years.
Psychiatrists use many forms of psychotherapy. There are psychotherapies that help patients change behaviors or thought patterns, psychotherapies that help patients explore the effect of past relationships and experiences on present behaviors, psychotherapies that treat troubled couples or families together, and more treatments that are tailored to help solve other problems in specific ways.
Psychoanalysis is an intensive form of individual psychotherapy which requires frequent sessions over several years. The psychiatrist, who must have additional years of training in psychoanalysis, helps the patient to recall and examine events, memories, and feelings from the past, many of them long forgotten, as a means of helping the patient understand present feelings and behavior.
Psychiatry is one of the oldest medical specialties, but is also one of the most exciting frontiers of medicine. Recent advances in the neurosciences have led to new technologies in the diagnosis and treatment of many of these illnesses. For example, the DSM-IV diagnostic manual, brain imaging, and new pharmaceuticals have significantly improved diagnosis and treatment for these illnesses.
The average psychiatrist spends approximately 48 hours each week at work. Most psychiatrists spend 60% of their time with patients. Two-thirds of these patients are seen as outpatients, with the rest being seen in a hospital setting or, increasingly, in partial hospitalization or day programs and community residential programs. Psychiatric hospitalization is now more intense, more focused, and much shorter in duration than in previous years. Additional professional activities include administration, teaching, consultation, and research.
Psychiatrists work in group or solo private practice. They also practice in the public sector, such as Veterans Administration and state hospitals and community mental health centers that are unique to psychiatry. Medical schools, HMOs, and general hospitals, as well as specialized psychiatric hospitals are also settings for psychiatric practice.
Today’s psychiatrist provides a wide range of biological, psychotherapeutic and psychosocial treatments which are tailored to the specific needs of the patient. The psychiatrist also serves as the medical expert for the mind/brain/body interface. Unfortunately, prejudice and discrimination against the mentally ill still exists. Sometimes, this stigma is also directed against those who care for the mentally ill. Occasionally, even our colleagues in medicine are unaware that mental health are real (i.e. genetically and biochemically based) and can be diagnosed and treated with the same accuracy and effectiveness as other medical illnesses.