What is Psychiatry?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in treating mental illness such as depression, mania, anxiety, psychosis, and addiction. To become a psychiatrist, one must first complete three or four years of an undergraduate university degree such as a Bachelor of Science. Following that, one must complete four years of medical school and then five years of residency training in psychiatry. Many psychiatrists have also completed further fellowship training or postgraduate degrees such as a Masters degree or a PhD. Once practicing, all psychiatrists in BC are responsible to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC and must complete Continuing Medical Education activities annually.

A lot of people have the misconception that the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists is that psychiatrists use only medication therapy and psychologists use only talk therapy. This is incorrect. As medical doctors, psychiatrists have the training to know how medications might affect other body systems or interact with each other and are able to prescribe them. Psychologists do not prescribe medications. Psychiatrists also use various forms of talk therapy or psychotherapy, sometimes in combination with medications. There are some psychiatrists who only use psychotherapy. Another difference between psychiatry and psychology is that psychiatric services are generally covered under MSP while psychological services must generally be covered by private insurance or by the patient.

In hospitals, psychiatrists and psychologists often work together as part of multidisciplinary teams. In these cases, the services of both are generally covered under MSP as part of the overall hospital admission.

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