Adult psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with the mental health of adults. Psychiatrists can provide both counseling and medical advice, including prescribing psychiatric medications. In general, adult psychiatry can be divided into inpatient or outpatient as well as generalized or specialized psychiatry.
Patients who require only medication or intermittent counseling are generally treated through outpatient adult psychiatry offices or clinics. The patient may come in weekly, biweekly, monthly or at other intervals recommended by the psychiatrist. Outpatient clinics are usually open only during normal business hours, although they may sometimes be open in the evenings to accommodate the schedules of working patients.
A patient who is severely mentally ill, however, may be considered a threat to himself or herself as well as others. He or she may need to be hospitalized in either a general hospital or a specialized mental institution and receive around-the-clock monitoring and care. These institutions may be designed to house either long-term or short-term adult psychiatry patients, or both. They are staffed 24 hours a day by nurses, aides and psychiatrists.
Some adult psychiatrists specialize in particular types of mental illnesses. Common specialties include substance abuse treatment, psychosis or anxiety disorders. Psychiatrists who specialize in one area of mental health may also see patients with other concerns, or they may limit their practice to patients in their particular area of expertise.
In the early 21st century, as the baby boomer generation ages, there is a growing need for gerontological specialists — that is, psychiatrists dealing with the concerns of the elderly. These particular concerns include memory loss, depression due to death of friends and spouses, and fears related to death and dying. Gerontological psychiatrists often work in partnership with doctors treating the elderly for other medical conditions.
Other adult psychiatrists are generalists, meaning that they treat all types of mental health problems to one extent or another. They often do most of their work in general outpatient care. For this reason, they may refer patients with severe or unusual illnesses to a specialist.