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A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in psychiatry and is certified in treating mental disorders.[1] As part of their evaluation of the patient, psychiatrists are one of only a few mental health professionals who may prescribe psychiatric medication, conduct physical examinations, order and interpret laboratory tests and order brain imaging studies.

Psychiatry in the professional world

Psychiatrists are medical doctors (Doctor of Medicine, DO, etc) who specialize in treating mental illness using the biomedical approach to mental disorders. Psychiatrists can also go through training to conduct psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy, but it is their medical training that differentiates them from other mental health professionals.


The field of psychiatry itself can be divided into various subspecialties. These include:

  • Child and adolescent psychiatry
  • Adult psychiatry
  • Geriatric psychiatry
  • Learning disability
  • Behavioral medicine
  • Consultation-liaison psychiatry
  • Emergency psychiatry
  • Addiction psychiatry
  • Forensic psychiatry
  • Neurodevelopmental Disabilities
  • Pain medicine
  • Psychosomatic Medicine
  • Sleep Medicine

Some psychiatric practitioners specialize in helping certain age groups; child and adolescent psychiatrists work with children and teenagers in addressing psychological problems. Those who work with the elderly are called geriatric psychiatrists or geropsychiatrists. Those who practice psychiatry in the workplace are called industrial psychiatrists in the US (occupational psychology is the name used for the most similar discipline in the UK). Psychiatrists working in the courtroom and reporting to the judge and jury, in both criminal and civil court cases, are called forensic psychiatrists, who also treat mentally disordered offenders and other patients whose condition is such that they have to be treated in secure units.

Other psychiatrists and mental health professionals in the field of psychiatry may also specialize in psychopharmacology, neuropsychiatry, eating disorders, psychosomatics, and early psychosis intervention.[2]


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (Unknown last update). What is a Psychiatrist. Retrieved March 25, 2007, from
  2. American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc. (5 March 2007). ABPN Certification - Subspecialties. Retrieved March 25, 2007, from

See also

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