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  Psychiatry and Psychopharmacology  

Psychiatry is the medical specialty dealing with disorders, disturbances and diseases of the mind and central nervous system. Psychiatrists are physicians(M.D.s) who have chosen to specialize in their field by an average of three additional years of study after graduation from medical school.

Psychiatry in America has undergone a tremendous transformation in the past half century from a predominantly verbal, psychological approach to serious mental illness, to a predominantly biological, physical approach to such difficulties by means of medications. Freud has been replaced by Prozac. But today there are as many combinations and variations on therapeutic approaches to the classic mind-body dilemma as there are psychiatrists, with each practitioner struggling, not always successfully, to discover and maintain a balance with which they are comfortable.

Psychodynamic psychiatry is the general term for an approach to understanding human beings that relies heavily upon the insights of Freud and other pioneers in so-called depth psychology and the mapping of the unconscious mind. This is the "talking cure" that favors the growth of personal insight and the modification of unhealthy personality traits and complexes, the latter often but not invariably deriving from earlier life experiences.

Biological psychiatry or psychopharmacology describes an approach to traditional psychiatric problems that emphasizes the role of the brain in the production of symptoms and the utility of medications and other physical methods in alleviating them. Biological psychiatry, thanks to the discovery and deployment of effective psychiatric medications in the past half century, is currently the dominant point of view in the field, just as psychodynamic psychiatry was before the introduction of potent medications.

Neither of these approaches precludes the other, and common sense as well as abundant clinical and scientific experience suggests that the best results will usually be obtained by a judicious combination of both methods, the specific balance to vary according to the particular needs of individual patients.

Most effective psychiatrists today can be reasonably described as eclectic and pragmatic, that is, combining a variety of approaches and treatments tailored to the specific individual and aimed at providing relief of symptoms and general improvement of mental functioning. One-sidedness in psychiatry -too much reliance on either medication or psychotherapy to the exclusion of the other- is seldom productive.


The Psychiatrist

Emory University Department of Psychiatry

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychiatry and Mental Health

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Guide to Psychiatry and Psychology Counseling - What to Expect

Wikipedia Article

Psychiatry and Psychiatrists
Collection of New York Times Articles

Psychiatry News
American Psychiatric Association

Psychiatry News
Science Daily