What Is A Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions like:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Autism
  • Dementia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • and others

Daily, psychiatrists consult with patients, learn about their symptoms, make diagnoses, and explore treatment options. They can help their psychiatric patients manage long-term mental illnesses, or quickly address emergency mental health crises and admit patients to a hospital when necessary. 

Mental illnesses can sometimes be complex and may be difficult to diagnose or treat by a general practitioner. A psychiatrist is an expert in how to best treat the symptoms patients experience and can prescribe psychiatric medications or help their patients heal with talk therapy and other non-pharmaceutical treatment options. They can also assist their patients in making positive lifestyle changes to cope with their symptoms or recover from their illness, and get back to living a healthy, happy, and productive life.

What Education Does A Psychiatrist Have?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor, so they receive many years of specialized training, just like any other doctor does. To practice psychiatry, you must hold a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). From there, they must complete a four-year residency program in psychiatry.

After all schooling and residencies are completed, the doctor must also obtain licensing and certifications to allow them to practice in the state they wish to operate in. States also require psychiatrists to get credits from a continuing education program, which means attending classes and conferences to stay up to date on all the latest treatment options and technology needed to practice and treat patients efficiently.

What Is the Difference Between A Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Therapist, and Counselor?

When a person is experiencing the symptoms of mental illness, they have a lot of treatment options available to them, but it is important to understand what each type of treatment offers and what may be best for them. Mental health professionals come in many different types, and each has specific training so that they can do their job well. But what exactly are the differences between a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, and counselor?

Out of these professions, a psychiatrist is the only one who holds a medical degree and the only one who has the proper training to prescribe medication. A psychologist most likely also has a professional degree like a Ph.D., indicating that they received advanced training in the field of psychology. While a psychologist can make a mental health diagnosis, they cannot prescribe medication to treat it. A therapist or counselor is often used as a more general term to describe a mental health professional, though many therapists or counselors may hold degrees in social work, counseling, or family therapy.

What Areas Can Psychiatrists Specialize In?

Within the field of mental health, there are several specializations that a psychiatrist can receive training in. Children, teenagers, adults, and senior citizens may each face unique mental health challenges, so psychiatrists may specialize in treating a specific age group. They may also choose to specialize in treating mental health emergencies or people who are struggling with addiction. Legal (Forensic) psychiatrists can help to determine when mental illness played a role in criminal behavior, and some psychiatrists may choose to work closely with disabled individuals.

What Services Do Psychiatrists Provide?

Psychiatrists provide a wide variety of services that can help people recover and cope with mental illness. They will offer an initial evaluation, where they will learn about your mental health and medical history and try to make a diagnosis. They also may offer talk therapy, where the patient may attend weekly therapy sessions to manage symptoms and learn day-to-day skills to help increase function. Psychiatrists will also provide medication management, where they analyze what types of medicine work for a patient and manage what type and how much they are prescribed. 

What Does A Child Psychiatrist Do?

Child psychiatrists have an especially important job. They work specifically with individuals under 18 to diagnose and treat behavior and mental health issues. Children often do not have the same level of self-awareness as adults do, and often do not understand or cannot see when their behavior is a problem. Child psychiatrists work hard to help children learn about their symptoms and find the right treatment options. Mental illness in children sometimes displays differently and has different symptoms than the same mental illnesses in adults, so child psychiatrists receive specialized training so that they can spot these symptoms, even when they are hidden beneath behavioral problems. 

Like adults, children can be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, learning disorders, eating disorders, and drug addictions, but sometimes, the treatments that work for adults, especially in terms of prescribed medications, may not work or may even be dangerous for children. Child psychologists are trained to understand how these medications affect children and what side effects to look out for. 

When Should You See A Psychiatrist?

If you are experiencing the symptoms of mental illness, a psychiatrist may not be your first stop. Often, people see their primary care provider first, and that doctor may recommend a psychiatrist. Or in some cases, a patient may receive talk therapy from a counselor or psychologist who then recommends medication as a treatment option. Because those professionals cannot prescribe psychiatric drugs, they will most likely recommend you to a psychiatrist for further treatment. In many cases, a patient may continue to see their original therapist and may simply see a psychiatrist for a prescription and medication management. A psychiatrist can also recognize when patients need more intensive treatment in a hospital inpatient setting. Many people recognize they may have a psychiatric disorder and schedule to see the psychiatrist as their first step.

A psychiatrist is an especially good option if your mental health issue is particularly complex, or other treatment does not seem to be working.

How Does A Child Psychiatrist Help?

Sometimes, children may experience mental illness or trauma that may display as behavioral problems in school, trouble concentrating, oppositional behavior, or defiance. While these behaviors may be scary and confusing, a mental health issue is often the underlying cause. A child may not recognize when they are feeling particularly sad, and they may not be able to describe their feelings of anxiety or stress. A child psychiatrist can help to interpret certain behaviors in children that may be indicative of a mental health issue.

A child psychiatrist looks at these behaviors, talks to parents, and helps to make the child more comfortable talking about how they are feeling. Many mental illnesses are often diagnosed in childhood as well, like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and children who experience abuse or trauma may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A child psychiatrist is well-versed in all these childhood disorders and can help the child make sense of what they're going through and learn to better cope with their symptoms. 

What Happens During Your First Visit with A Psychiatrist?

During your first visit with a psychiatrist, they will conduct an initial evaluation with the intent of gathering information and potentially giving you a mental health diagnosis. They may ask you questions verbally, have you complete a questionnaire about how you feel, or use other evaluation tools. They will likely ask you about your history, your family and relationships, and what symptoms you are experiencing. Though it may feel intimidating to sit in front of a psychiatrist and answer deeply personal questions, it's important to talk to them about your family history (mental illness can sometimes be hereditary), any trauma you may have experienced in the past, and how you feel daily.

During this initial evaluation, the psychiatrist gains insight into your personality and how you are functioning on a day-to-day basis. They are working to understand your unique situation and what treatments and solutions may work for you. In the same way, a doctor may do a blood test, x-ray, or bacterial culture to find out if you have an illness or injury, a psychiatrist completes an evaluation to learn if you have a mental health condition. 

How Do You Choose A Psychiatrist?

Because you will be sharing so much personal information with your psychiatrist, it is important to find someone you can trust and connect with. It is also important to look for a psychiatrist who is up to date with their certifications and licenses and has good reviews or recommendations online. If, after your first visit with a psychiatrist, you do not feel comfortable, it is a smart idea to look around for someone who puts you at ease. If you're looking to see a psychiatrist in the Fargo, North Dakota area, contact us. Saint Sophie's Psychiatric Center is proud to offer compassionate and comprehensive care for mental health issues.

Who Else Can Provide Psychiatric Care?

Psychiatric illness is very common. Many patients receive their care in clinic settings where other licensed professionals are part of the team of prescribers. Physician’s Assistants (PA’s) receive medical training focused on diagnosis and medication treatment and are a very valuable part of the team. Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners (APRN’s) are Registered Nurses who work as a nurse for several years and then obtain advanced training in diagnosis and treatment. Some specialize in Psychiatry (Psychiatric - Mental Health Nurse Practitioners, or PMHNP’s) and some may be Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP’s) who chose to focus their practice on Psychiatric Care. Some may have a Master’s Degree preparation and others may have the Doctorate in Nursing. They also are a very valuable part of the team. In North Dakota, both PA’s and NP’s are autonomous providers, meaning they can practice without any requirement for supervision by a physician. The development and utilization of these providers in the work force is essential to meet the needs of the population at large. At Saint Sophie’s, we work together as a team and collaborate in patient care.

About Our Psychiatrist, Emmet M. Kenney, Jr., M.D.

Dr. Emmet Kenney has practiced in North Dakota since 1995. He was co-founder of the largest private mental health system in North Dakota. He began Saint Sophie’s in 2010 with a focus on developing outpatient services based on patient-centered and family friendly principles. His focus is on psychiatric diagnosis and medication management. Dr. Kenney has special expertise in Child and Adolescent Illnesses, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, and Chemical Dependency. He accepts new patients up to the age of 20 and is certified by both American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in General Psychiatry and American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Why Choose Saint Sophie’s Psychiatric Center?

We take pride in our commitment to treat people of all ages who have a wide range of psychiatric illnesses with respect and dignity. If you are concerned that you, your partner, or your child may be dealing with a mental health issue, there are a variety of treatment options that our providers can explore with you or your family. Saint Sophie’s Psychiatric Center is passionate about providing the highest quality of care to patients in the form of medication management, psychotherapy (individual, couples, family), and computerized testing for ADHD. We are licensed to assist patients in North Dakota and Minnesota and offer telehealth. To set up an appointment, contact Saint Sophie’s Psychiatric Center by submitting a contact form or calling us at  (701) 365-4488.

Saint Sophie’s Psychiatric Center is, “The Right Place for You When Times Are Difficult.”