What does a psychiatrist do?

Psychiatrists specialise in treating a range of different mental illnesses, seeing patients with conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and anxiety disorders. They are authorised to recommend treatment plans, up to and including medication regimens or admission to hospital. Often their patients are suffering from emotional distress due to their mental health symptoms.

Tasks:

  • Assessing mental and physical health of patients
  • Examining lab tests, imaging, and other diagnostics
  • Prescribing medications and other treatment programs 
  • Teaching medical students and registrars
  • Assisting courts in managing patients in a legal setting

What skills do I need to be a psychiatrist?

Because psychiatrists deal with people in a clinical mental health environment, they need a comprehensive and very specific skill set. They must have a thorough knowledge of medical science, particularly in areas where mental and physical conditions overlap or comorbidity is a factor in diagnosis. They work closely with other medical practitioners including doctors, psychologists, and nurse in devising and implementing patient care programs. A calm, professional demeanour and super listening and communication are important parts of being a successful psychiatrist.

Skills/attributes
  • Active listening to determine patient needs
  • High levels of social awareness
  • Complex problem solving skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to make decisions under pressure

Specialisations

Psychiatry is a broad field and addresses the needs of patients throughout their stages of life. As a result, there are many subspecialties. They address particular issues such as addiction, or can deal with complex issues such as eating disorders.

Adult psychiatry

This sub-specialty frequently treats and manages schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, personality disorders, and a range of anxiety disorders. They are often leaders of multidisciplinary health teams, determining care and treatment for patients and the families of patients.

Addiction psychiatry

This specialty focuses on the study, prevention and treatment of addiction. It aims to stop or limit addictive behaviour and assist in patient recovery. This requires a good knowledge of psychological treatment, physical health implications and the role of lifestyle factors in addiction management,. They may help develop community policies and programs to combat gambling, drug, alcohol and other addiction problems.

Neuropsychiatry

This career combines psychiatry, medicine and neurology. It is frequently called ‘organic’ psychiatry, and attempts to understand brain-behaviour relationships. Neuropsychiatrists care for patients that have brain disease, injury, and other neurological or neurodegenerative disorders. This includes younger-onset dementias, Parkinson’s diseases and treatment-resistant or idiopathic psychiatric illnesses.

Study pathways for psychiatrists

Training for psychiatrists is rigorous, long and demanding, comprising an additional six years of post-graduate study following completion of a medical degree. 

Getting Started

Find out more about careers in mental health

Skill Building

Build your skills and understanding of mental health disorders with targeted training

Professional Development

Develop your knowledge of mental health disorders and the health industry

Industry Recognition

In order to work as a psychiatrist in your state, you will need to register with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your psychiatry career. Emphasise your personal strengths and achievements in your resume and target your cover letter to the job description listed.

Job Prospects and Salaries

Psychiatrists generally experience excellent job security as they enter a very specialised field of medicine, however competition for employment is fierce.