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Psychiatry is a science that has evolved greatly with time. Patients suffering with mental illnesses are no longer institutionalised without a thorough evaluation; indeed, most are now treated as outpatients. Psychiatry and psychology are often confused so it is important to remember that it is a psychiatrist who is the qualified doctor – while a psychologist holds a doctoral degree. Psychiatry involves a clinical aspect: the prescription of medication, and the provision of counselling concerned with various mental health problems. Examples of ailments treated by a psychiatrist would be Alzheimer’s, manic depression, anorexia, and so on. In addition to illnesses, patients can be assisted with problems such as relationship difficulties and dealing with the loss of a loved one. Though it should go without saying, an inherent interest in understanding the minds and acts of others is required to work in psychiatry.

As with other high-end careers in the medical sector, any aspiring psychiatrists must first qualify as a medical doctor before going on to further study and training (see Medicine career). Undergraduate Medicine is taught in the following institutions – UCC, Trinity College, UCD, NUI Galway, and the Royal College of Surgeons. All of these degree courses in medicine provide psychiatry modules.

Once qualified as a doctor, graduates need to enrol in a four-year training scheme in a psychiatric hospital, where they will gain experience of the various sub-disciplines in psychiatry. The Irish Psychiatric Training Committee (IPTC) regulates all 12 training schemes currently available across Ireland. These training schemes are recognised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, membership (MRCPsych) of which is attained by completing two examinations – after one year and after two or three years’ training. Having obtained the MRCPsych, most trainee psychiatrists seek to master the managerial and administrative aspects of the job by applying for a Senior Registrar position, which are generally three years in length. Many emigrate to the UK at this point, due to a shortfall of these positions in Ireland – as of 2007/2008 there were 80 Senior Registrar posts available in Ireland.

It is very difficult to become a consultant psychiatrist if you have not completed Senior Registrar training. Alternatives to the Senior Registrar route include obtaining a position as a lecturer in a university, or taking a research job – both of which may confer the same training status as a Senior Registrar post. Options After Qualification
Fully qualified psychiatrists can work in hospitals, private practices, in education as lecturers and researchers, and in the corporate sector. Many psychiatric roles are suitable for part-time work – on a sessional basis in a treatment role, and on a lecture basis in the academic sector.

The Work
Psychiatrists take a holistic approach when treating a patient. All relevant information, which is divulged from the patient’s mental history, familial situation, medical history, and lab tests, is reviewed to ascertain a root cause for the mental problem. A treatment plan is drawn up that often consists of both a medication prescription and counselling, and progress is monitored over periodic sessions with the patient and sometimes their family members (particularly when the patients are children).

Psychiatrists often work alongside social workers, psychiatric nurses, psychologists and GPs, as part of a patient’s assigned team of healthcare workers. The majority of psychiatric consultants work in the private and public health systems, specialising in the area of general adult psychiatry.

Other specialised roles include:

• Child psychiatrists, who work with child and adolescent patients, cooperating with parents and teachers

• Forensic psychiatrists, who provide treatment to offenders, and are often required to assist in court cases

• Learning disability psychiatrists, who treat people such as Down’s syndrome sufferers who also have mental health problems

• Old age psychiatrists, who treat elderly people suffering from illnesses such as senile dementia and Alzheimer’s.


Personal Qualities & Work Environment

Excellent communication and evaluation skills are essential – psychiatrists need to be very intuitive and talented in asking the right questions. An ability to listen is obviously a necessary quality.
Level-headed people, who can remain professional at all times, are also at an advantage, as patients can be unreceptive and hostile.

The Money

Psychiatrists earn from around €45, 000 to over a €100, 000 a year as they rise through the ranks from junior psychiatrist to consultant. In the academic sector an assistant lecturer might start at €25, 000 a year, while a senior lecturer can earn from €60, 000 to €90, 000.

The Jargon

Psychoanalysis: A conception of Freud that the investigating of repressed fears and conflicts, using techniques such as dream interpretation and free association, can aid the cure of mental illness.

Schizophrenia: A grouping of severe psychotic disorders that are usually characterized by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: A psychotherapy based on cataloguing and monitoring everyday thoughts and behaviours.

Anti-Psychiatry: A long-standing body of thought (from within and beyond psychiatry) that accuses the discipline of, among other things, over-medicalising the human condition.


Job Titles

Consultant Psychiatrist

Child Psychiatrist

Forensic Psychiatrist



Further Resources

Irish Psychiatric Association

122 Lower Baggot Street

Dublin 2

Phone: 01 4753300


Irish College of Psychiatrists

121 St. Stephen’s Green

Dublin 2

Phone: 01 402 2346


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