A psychiatrist is a medical doctor -- with the authority to prescribe medications and make medical decisions -- who deals with mental disorders. (Psychologists do not have a medical degree and, therefore, cannot prescribe drugs.)

Many psychiatrists use psychoanalysis as part of their therapeutic or diagnostic method, and all psychiatrists have intensive training in psychology.


There are four chief branches of psychiatry:

  • Descriptive psychiatry, which is based on the observation of external factors that may be the cause of mental illness
  • Dynamic psychiatry, which is the study of the processes, origins, and mechanisms of emotional states
  • Forensic psychiatry, which deals with the legal aspects of mental illness
  • Orthomolecular psychiatry, which is the study of the molecular bases of mental illnesses

Areas such as psychopharmacology (the study of the effects of drugs on a person's emotional and mental state) and psychophysiology (the study of the physiology of mental illness) are offshoots of orthomolecular psychiatry.

Psychiatrists go through the usual medical sequence: medical school, internship, and residency. The psychiatrist may spend five years or more in specialized training in psychiatry and neurology.

©Publications International, Ltd.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.