What is a Psychiatrist or Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specializes in mental health disorders. They receive medical training and study the complex relationship between mental health illnesses and other medical illnesses. They are able to diagnose mental health conditions as well as treat them with a variety of methods including medication, hospitalization, and psychotherapy, (American Psychiatric Association, 2014). The American Psychological Association defines a psychiatrist as, “an individual who has obtained an M.D. degree and has completed postdoctoral specialty training in mental and emotional disorders. A psychiatrist may also prescribe medications for the treatment of psychological disorders”, (APA, 2014). Psychiatrists work with a variety of mental health disorders ranging in severity including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders.

Psychiatrists are qualified to use both medical and psychological tests in order to determine a client’s physical and mental health state. They are able to evaluate both medical and psychological data in order to make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan for conditions. Some psychiatrists may use psychotherapy as treatment or prescribe medication for mental health treatment. Depending on a client’s unique physical and mental health needs, a psychiatrist may choose to assist the client with their medication management and refer them to an individual who practices psychotherapy for further treatment. Many psychiatrists work in groups with other mental health practitioners, independently in a private practice, hospitals, or community health centers.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners offer many of the same services a psychiatrist offers. This includes assessment and diagnosis of mental health disorders as well as treatment and prescription of medications for these mental health conditions. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are regular nurses that specialize within mental health disorders. These nurses work with individuals, families, couples, and groups of individuals to evaluate mental health needs. They also can develop a diagnosis and plan of care to treat mental health disorders. Psychiatric nurse practitioners may use psychotherapy along with medication to treat various disorders depending on the clients needs.