Psychiatry is the medical field dedicated to diagnosing, treating and preventing mental health disorders that affect mood, behavior, and cognition. Many people are often confused about the distinction between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. While a psychologist may explore and treat many of these same issues, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication and perform additional interventions that a psychologist can not perform. The most common method for treating patients today in psychiatry combines psychotherapy with medication, but psychiatrists may explore supplementary modalities, as needed.

What treatments can a psychiatrist provide?

In addition to providing psychotherapy and medication, as a medical doctor, a psychiatrist can order lab testing and neuroimaging or perform a physical exam. A prevalent subtype of psychiatry, known as neuropsychiatry, brings together neurology and psychiatry to treat mental health disorders related to the nervous system, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Medication Management

Medication management is an essential component of prescribing medication and at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship in psychiatry. In medication management, the doctor and patient work closely together to ensure that dosages are correct and that the patient is dealing well with a medication over time. After initial prescribing a medication, the doctor checks in with the patient to ensure the medication is working well and effectively. It is important for patients considering medication to remember that psychologists cannot prescribe medication, since they are not medical doctors.

Severe Anxiety & Panic Attacks

Many mental health disorders involve severe anxiety or panic attacks. Working with a psychiatrist can be one of the most effective ways to combat these disorders, since a psychiatrist can combine medication with therapeutic interventions. Medication can serve to calm the physical experience of anxiety and panic attacks, giving the patient time to work on and implement better coping mechanisms and responses.


PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental health disorder involving outbursts of anger, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and avoidant behaviors. It typically stems from an inciting trauma, and is often associated with combat veterans. Anyone who has experienced trauma, however, can develop the disorder. Treating PTSD often requires the intervention of a psychiatrist, since medication can be a powerful tool in controlling the physical experience and anxieties of the disorder.