Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can treat patients suffering from mental ailments with both talk therapy and prescription medications. There are a number of organizations in this field to support both psychiatrists and their patients. These psychiatric organizations can include licensing boards that ensure practitioners are adequately prepared for practice, patient advocacy groups, or associations of the professionals who help psychiatrists care for patients.
Both psychologists and psychiatrists can act as therapists for individuals in need of counseling. The difference between these two practitioners is that psychologists usually have advanced degrees in psychology, while psychiatrists generally have a medical degree (M.D.). In many countries, an M.D. is necessary in order to prescribe medication for patients, which sets psychiatrists apart from psychologists. Psychiatrists can further distinguish themselves within their field by passing the exams that psychiatric organizations offer, such as American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
Some psychiatrists work by themselves in a private practice setting, but others work in large hospitals. Having access to additional facilities can allow psychiatrists to run sophisticated diagnostic tests and help more disturbed patients. Psychiatric technicians are the professionals who aid psychiatrists in running many of these procedures, and may provide additional care for patients in the doctor's charge. Some psychiatric organizations exist to provide educational resources to aspiring psychiatric technicians, ongoing education to individuals who are already working in the field, and professional resources to both aspiring and established technicians.
Many countries have legal systems that require patients to give informed consent before doctors perform certain medical procedures or administer drugs. These laws are meant to protect patients but can present unique challenges and ethical dilemmas when treating patients with psychiatric conditions that impair their judgment, their ability to understand the risks of a treatment option, or make them a threat to themselves or others. Psychiatric organizations can perform advocacy and lobbying work to help legal codes strike a balance between the needs of medical professionals, patient rights, and public safety concerns.
The kinds of mental illnesses that psychiatrists treat can cause behavioral changes, which the public can misunderstand. This lack of understanding can lead to patients being stigmatized by the general public. Many psychiatric organizations focus on educating the public about mental illness to combat this stigma. These efforts are generally both for the benefit of individuals who have already been diagnosed with mental illnesses, and to encourage people who could benefit from a psychiatrist's care to seek help.