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Addiction Psychiatrist: Education and Career Information

If you are interested in how the mind works and want to help people in controlling their addictions, you may want to pursue a career as an addiction psychiatrist. This is a medical role, so there are a number of years of school involved.

What does an addiction psychiatrist do?

An addiction psychiatrist treats patients who have chemical drug dependencies by using medication and psychological therapy. They work to address any and all underlying psychological roots of people with addictions. These addictions can range from dependencies of drug, alcohol or nicotine. This role is diverse in that it also works to prevent relapses, and explores the reasons behind the problems, which could be a number of things, including trauma, stress, depression or a strained family life.

How much does an addiction psychiatrist earn?

An addiction psychiatrist usually makes about $130,000 per year. When in private practice, this amount can increase to about $184,000. This is contingent on the years of experience, the educational background, the location and facility where they work. Psychiatrists working at facilities make significantly less than those who work in private practice. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this career path follows an 18% job growth expectation through the year 2022.

What skills are needed to become an addiction psychiatrist?

Active Listening: It’s important to be able to devote your full attention to the patients and other individuals you have been working with to fully understand what is being said so questions can be asked when needed. Learning to listen without interrupting is key.

Critical Thinking: You must use reasoning to locate and identify any strengths or weaknesses in the diagnosis and come up with viable solutions or alternatives to current issues.

Active Learning: In every patient, there is a learning curve. Being able to understand any new information that will assist in solving problems is key.

Problem Solving: This person must be able to identify problems and seek additional information to identify problems, seek a number of solutions, and determine which ones are the best to move forward.

Decision Making: It is important to be able to make sound decisions that will work in the best interest of the patient.

Time Management: Being cognizant of time is important. You will be responsible for juggling a number of people and projects at one time. You must have a knack for keeping everything running smoothly in various increments of time.

Public Speaking: Being able to speak to a number of people in a public setting is imperative. Psychiatrists deal with a diverse crowd and should be versatile enough to address any questions, and deal with them accordingly.

Effective Communication (Reading and Writing): This role must be able to comprehend different articles and other documentation with clarity and understanding, and be able to write well to provide information to others. It is crucial to be able to write for the needs of the audience, and apply both reading and writing effectively for work.

Monitoring: Being able to monitor and assess the performance of the treatment plans, the group and any recommendations is necessary.

Science: As a psychiatrist, knowing how to apply scientific methods and rules is necessary to be effective in this position. As things change with the trends, it is important to be scientifically in tune with how these will be used for the betterment of treating patients.

Instructing: It is important to be able to instruct others on how to do certain things, work on treatment plans, and get everyone on the same page. It is imperative that this role has a firm understanding on how to educate others.

Negotiation: Negotiation plays a big part of getting others on board to make a difference in the development and treatment of patients.

Internship Requirements

There is a clinical residency component that is required during and after medical school is completed that will focus on the identification and treatment of patients with addictions and addictive behaviors. This internship will be supervised by an addiction psychiatrist or supervisor with extensive experience in the field. The amount of training in the internship is contingent upon the school, and requirements of that specific specialty.

Education Requirements

The first step is obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Students should pursue their education in the fields of chemistry or biology, and humanities. Classes in communications, advanced mathematics, anatomy and other related fields should be taken.

Once the bachelor’s degree is almost finished, students should sit for and take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), which will measure writing, problem solving and critical thinking skills, and knowledge of your scientific background. This is an aptitude test that medical schools consider for admission, in addition to transcripts, letters of recommendation and other criteria.

Once in medical school, students will be pursuing a Doctor of Medicine degree. This is a four-year program. Aspiring psychiatrists receive the same training as students interested in studying other branches of medicine. Common courses taken during the first two years of study include:

•Anatomy
•Physiology
•Biochemistry
•Pharmacology
•Psychology
•Medical ethics

During the final two years of the program, students work in clinical settings. There they are exposed to various fields of medicine, including family practice, obstetrics, surgery, pediatrics and psychiatry.

Clinical Residency in Psychiatry

While completing a psychiatric residency program, graduates will go through additional training and education needed to work as a psychiatrist. Admission to residency programs can be competitive and is based on performance in medical school and scores received on medical board exams.

Residents are typically paid salaries to work in hospitals and clinics. In addition to practical work, residents complete further academic study and attend lectures and seminars in order to keep abreast of advancements in the field. During the first year of the program, psychiatric residents could engage in foundational study in medicine, neurology, psychiatric emergencies and substance abuse.

The second year introduces practice in psychotherapy with actual patients under the supervision of a licensed physician or psychiatrist. During the third year, they might focus on specific topics, such as child, adolescent or geriatric psychiatry. The final year is often devoted to developing additional areas of professional interest.

Licensing and Certification

Psychiatrists, like all medical doctors, must be licensed by the medical board of the state in which they plan to work. Once licensed, they can become board certified by taking certification exams through organizations, such as the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology or the American Board of Physician Specialties. Psychiatrists can earn certification in general psychiatry or choose a subspecialty, such as addiction, forensic, geriatric or adolescent psychiatry. The tests cover general psychiatric topics including:

•Developmental psychology
•Behavioral sciences
•Public policy
•Diagnostic procedures
•Psychiatric disorders
•Child abuse

Psychiatry Scholarships

American Psychological Foundation Scholarships Association of Black Psychologists Epilepsy Foundation
Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship Future Counselors of America Scholarship Gallagher Koster Health Careers Scholarship
Kay Wilson Presidential Leadership Award NIH Undergraduate Scholarship NAJA Graduate Scholarship
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Psi Chi Awards and Grants Wayne F. Placek Grants

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