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General Adult Psychiatrist: Education and Career Information

Adult psychiatry is a specialized area dealing with the evaluation and treatment of adult disorders, or anyone over the age of 18. Depending on the type of disorder, individuals may be treated starting at the age of 16 for diagnoses including general psychiatry, addiction medicine, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia and women’s life disorders. Although a niche area, this is a popular field and is extremely lucrative. General adult psychiatrists are equipped to handle any issues that are causing mental stress.

What is an adult psychiatrist?

An adult psychiatrist deals with psychiatric disorders in adults. Some of these disorders are anxiety disorders, personality disorders, bipolar and unipolar disorders and adjustment disorders. An adult psychiatrist provides medication management and psychotherapy and neuropsychiatric testing. They work with general care facilities and psychiatric facilities in treating patients. Some of the tests adult psychiatrists perform:

•Psychological testing
•Suicide risk assessments
•Medical lab evaluations
•Family assessments
•Behavioral assessments
•Neurological examination and testing
•Psychiatric evaluation
•Independent living skills assessment

Adult psychiatrists also work with inpatient clinics and partial hospitalization programs.

How much does an adult psychiatrist earn?

The earnings of an adult psychiatrist vary based on location, experience and other specializations. A standard psychiatrist makes $200,000 on average annually, but that figure can significantly increase. If working in a healthcare facility, the salary may be a little lower, coming in at $170,000.

What are the types of skills needed to be successful in this career field?

Being a general adult psychiatrist takes a lot of skill and patience. When dealing with adults, situations may prove to be more challenging than working with pediatrics or another specialized field. There are a number of skills you should have:

Listening: One of the key elements of being a good psychiatrist is the ability to listen well. You need to be able to hear what the patient is saying, how they express themselves and catch whether or not there are any inconsistencies in what they have said. A good psychiatrist does not have any preconceived notions or biases and must be open and willing to understand the patient, asking the pertinent questions to properly evaluate and diagnose the patient.

Diagnostic skills: A psychiatrist is a clinician – a doctor. They must be able to analyze interviews, symptoms and test data to diagnose the patient based on their extensive knowledge. Psychiatrists go through intense training to be able to reason, prioritize and group responses, yet diagnose patients based on research-based evidence. The psychiatrist must be able to recognize and recommend treatment based on the diagnosis and intended outcome of the patient. This is a very important skill that a psychiatrist must have to properly treat patients.

Interpersonal and Communication skills: A psychiatrist’s entire career is based on communication with others. Not only are they charged with working to diagnose patients as a result of interviews, testing and other data gathered, they must also work with families and other health care professionals in designing an effective treatment plan for the patient. An adult psychiatrist must be able to explain the terminology they are using, why they recommend certain treatments and have the ability to write clear and concise notes on the patient’s condition. This is essential. An adult psychiatrist must have strong oral and written skills to be successful in this career.

Perception and Reasoning: An adult psychiatrist must be able to judge why the patient is saying and reacting to certain things, being able to identify risks and potential concerns. An adult psychiatrist must be able to determine whether or not the patient is a danger to themselves or others, and can wade through information to determine valid solutions. They must have inductive and deductive reasoning skills, utilizing facts, principles and data gathered to find patterns that will provide enough information to form a conclusion. There will be instances when there is no immediate solution. A psychiatrist must apply sensitivity and rationale in finding concrete answers to decipher the real issues at hand.

Compassion: A career in psychiatry is designed to cater to those individuals who want to help heal others, who have mental, social or emotional issues. Being compassionate in assessing their needs, challenges and issues is important. Although a psychiatrist must remain unbiased, there must be a level of compassion that is present to fully understand what a patient is going through. No matter what they hear or feel, they must show compassion and exercise high levels of self-control.

Ability to deal with stress: This can be a very stressful career. Adult psychiatrists must be able to disconnect and learn techniques that will keep them calm while dealing with patients and their situations. Certain patients may have issues that last for years. The psychiatrist must have enough tolerance to help the patient, regardless of the stressors.

Internship requirements

Internships vary based on the program, but include a number of elements. The clinician will have a broad medical knowledge foundation in which to apply patient care techniques based on practice-based learning and improvement. General adult psychiatry residency and training programs are typically four years, and includes psychological, biological and socio-cultural aspects of psychiatry.

Education requirements

The education requirements for a general adult psychiatrist follow the lines of a standard psychiatry student until they receive a specialization. An undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree in biology or psychology is required, which will include coursework such as chemistry, physics, biology and math. The student must then apply to medical school. This requires passing the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This is a standard test for individuals who wish to pursue careers in medicine and is formulated by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Once the student has completed all the requirements and residency for medical school, they must pass a multi-step exam. This exam starts as part of the medical school curriculum. There are two possible exams: The Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) takes the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, and the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) takes the COMLEX, or Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination. Passage of either test can lead the student towards the general adult psychiatry career path. Once these exams have been passed and the doctoral degree conferred, psychiatrists must obtain a medical license from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). There are a number of sub-specialty certifications available.

Becoming an adult psychiatrist is a long road, but has both internal and external rewards at the end. If your ultimate goal is to help in the healing of mental illnesses, this may be the career for you.

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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