Within the UK, a psychiatrist is a medically qualified practitioner. They would have spent 5 or 6 years training to become a doctor, worked in general medicine and surgery for at least one year and then had at least another 6 years of further training to help people with psychological problems. A psychiatrist would be listed on the General Medical Council medical register if they are listed to practice within the UK

As a general rule you would be referred to a psychiatrist via your GP. You may be seen by a member of the psychiatrists team for assessment to ensure whether you need to see a psychiatrist or whether a different treatment path is needed.

What are the common problems a psychiatrist would treat?

Psychiatrists are mental health specialists and would treat people for a wide variety of mental health issues including:

Depression • anxiety • stress • phobias • bipolar disorders • eating disorders • addictions • chronic fatigue syndrome • autistic spectrum disorders • ADHD • OCD • Body dysmorphia

It is possible that once you have seen your psychiatrist they may recommend that your treatment path should include one or more specialist therapy. Therapies for mental health issues are provided by specialist therapists rather than your psychiatrist.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Hypnotherapy, Drama Therapy, Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT), Group Therapy, Psychotherapy, Anxiety or Anger Management.

A psychiatrist is trained to*

  • assess a person’s state of mind
  • use the “biopsychosocial” model of understanding. This emphasises the importance of a person’s past experiences, family, culture, surroundings and work as well as any medical features.
  • diagnose a mental illness
  • use a range of psychological treatments
  • use a range of medications
  • help a person recover


*Information sourced from The Royal College of Psychiatrists

A psychiatrist will look at the full medical history of their patient as well as assessing their mental health. They are able to recommend a variety of methods to assist a patient with their recovery and these include psychological treatments, medication, practical ways of dealing with an illness, practical ways to stay well and ways to re-adjust into everyday life and living.

Can you be sectioned by a psychiatrist?

If a psychiatrist has raised concerns about your mental health you could be sectioned which means that you are kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. The period of time you can be kept in hospital depends on which “section” you are detained under, your specific mental health problem, your personal circumstances and your need for care and treatment.

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