• Anna Yam, Ph.D.

What Are The Different Types of Therapists? - Psychiatrists

Updated: Feb 16

There are several different types of mental health professionals. Which one do I need?

Let’s look into it. This article will focus on Psychiatrists.


What is a Psychiatrist?


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD). Psychiatrists complete 4 years of college, then 4 years of medical school, followed by ~4 years of medical residency.


During residency, psychiatrists learn about psychiatric (mental health) disorders. They are taught to diagnose and prescribe psychotropic medications, which are medications that help reduce and/or manage the symptoms associated with mental illness. For example, psychotropic medications are often required in order to manage the symptoms of serious mental illnesses (SMI) like Bipolar Disorder.


What to expect from an outpatient visit with a psychiatrist


During the first visit most psychiatrists will perform a comprehensive interview. They will ask about your symptoms - namely how you’ve been feeling and what has been bothering you. They will also ask about your health, social history, and family history to help with diagnosis and planning your treatment.


After determining your diagnosis, the psychiatrist will offer one or several medication options, and discuss the risks and benefits of each. You will have the opportunity to ask questions, and either accept or decline the medication treatment.


Psychiatrists provide ongoing clinical care if they are prescribing you medications. This entails regular follow-up sessions starting ~2 weeks apart. Some psychiatrists have an interest in doing psychotherapy (talk therapy) and may also offer this service. These providers typically get additional training in psychotherapy and in general practice psychodynamic therapy and/or psychoanalysis.


Why see a psychiatrist (specialty services they provide)


  • If you want or need psychotropic medication(s) to manage your mental health symptoms

  • If you want to taper down or in any way change your psychotropic medication(s)

  • If you have a sudden onset of a serious mental illness, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other psychotic disorder (it is common for family and friends to notice this before you do)

  • If you have a serious mental illness and are struggling to function normally

  • If your mental illness requires ongoing medication management

  • If you have physical health and mental health problems and medications prescribed for both

  • If your serious mental illness requires procedures like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

Bottom Line: Psychiatrists mainly prescribe and manage psychotropic medications, some also do therapy.



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