What Does a Psychiatrist Do?

By Sarah Rigg
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Psychiatrists differ from psychologists and other mental health counselors; they are physicians with medical training who specialize in mental health issues. Daily schedules may vary depending on whether they have a private practice or work for a psychiatric hospital, but many duties and responsibilities are similar for all kinds of psychiatrists.

Diagnostics and testing

Psychiatrists take health histories, administer mental health screening questionnaires or order CAT scans or other imaging tests to diagnose disorders and illnesses in their patients.


Psychiatrists, unlike other mental health professionals, have the ability to write prescriptions for psychiatric drugs to treat mental illnesses from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia.

Talk therapy

Psychiatrists also engage in talk therapy, either one-on-one or in group-therapy sessions. A psychiatrist may talk to a patient about his family background and any current troubles and try to help the patient find solutions.

Other therapies

In certain cases, psychiatrists may order other kinds of treatments, such as hospitalization or electroshock therapy.


Psychiatrists in private practice may supervise licensed psychologists or psychiatric residents. Those working in psychiatric hospitals may supervise a team of doctors, nurses and other mental health care workers.

About the Author

Sarah Rigg has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and philosophy from Western Michigan University. She taught technical writing at WMU for several years and has been writing and editing for more than a decade. Rigg won awards for her creative writing and for her work at community newspapers.