Psychiatry is a unique specialty of medicine that deals with mental health and illness, whereas other areas of medicine deal with physical illness in the body. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and psychiatrists are just as essential as any other physician and healthcare worker. Psychiatry is also a very broad field with many subspecialties. Here are some of these subspecialties and where you can find employment as a psychiatrist.
1: Addiction Psychiatry
Addiction psychiatry focuses on evaluating and treating those with substance abuse disorders, including drugs, alcohol, and other legal and illegal substances that can alter behavior. Addiction psychiatrists also treat individuals with substance abuse and another psychiatric disorder. If you’re sub-specializing in this area of psychiatry, you’re most likely to find employment in substance abuse rehabilitation centers, but you may also find employment in psychiatric hospitals.
2: Clinical Neurophysiology
Clinical neurophysiology focuses on evaluating and treating various nervous system (central, peripheral, and autonomic) disorders using both clinical techniques and electrophysiologic testing, such as those used by neurologists. In fact, clinical neurophysiology is closely related to neurology, meaning that psychiatrists specializing in this field are likely to find employment in neurology clinics and private practices.
3: Forensic Psychiatry
The area of forensics refers to applying scientific knowledge to legal matters, specifically the scientific analysis of evidence from crime scenes. When it comes to forensics and psychology, clinical specialties are applied to the legal world, and a forensic psychiatrist focuses on the relationships between psychiatry and civil/criminal/administrative law. This usually entails providing specialized treatment to the incarcerated and the mentally ill. With that being said, forensic psychiatrists are most likely to find employment in prisons and psychiatric hospitals.
4: Geriatric, Adolescent, or Child Psychiatry
Geriatric, adolescent, and child psychiatry focuses on evaluating and treating mental and emotional disorders in the elderly, adolescents, and children, respectively. In the past, the majority of research in psychiatry was usually done on adults aged 25 to 55, give or take, and there was a need for more research on the minds of those older and younger. Child and adolescent psychiatry also focuses on developmental and behavioral disorders. These days, general psychiatry clinics will hire psychiatrists who specialize in a certain age group, but these psychiatrists can find employment in specialty clinics as well.
5: Pain Medicine
Pain medicine is a specialty within medicine that aims to treat, rehabilitate, and even prevent both chronic and acute pain. Pain itself is complex because it can have an obvious, discrete (pain associated with a malignancy/cancer), or neuropathic cause. Psychiatrists specializing in pain medicine evaluate and treat pain associated with a neuropathic cause, but can also treat pains associated with other causes. With that being said, these psychiatrists can find employment in hospitals, hospices, and other inpatient settings, as well as in outpatient settings.
6: Sleep Medicine
Sleep medicine is the study of sleep disorders and sleep disturbances— which can be caused by both physical and psychological factors. Psychiatrists specializing in sleep medicine diagnose and treat [psychological conditions that occur during/disturb sleep. This field pulls together many experts in medicine, so psychiatrists will likely be working along with physicians such as neurologists and pulmonologists in dedicated sleep centers. Other places of employment include laboratory settings, academic health centers, and even private practice clinics.
Although psychiatrists are medical doctors, they do have the option to work in a non-medical setting. An example would be in therapeutic and counseling settings, where they are diagnosing mental disorders and developing a treatment place for their patients— which may or may not include medications. However, as a psychiatrist, you are legally allowed to prescribe medication for mental health-related conditions. Also, you likely have minimal training in counseling and therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), so this workplace setting may not always be the best fit.
Other places where you could find employment as a psychiatrist include community agencies, the courts (in addition to prisons), nursing homes, government settings, military settings, and emergency rooms. Many psychiatrists also work in multiple settings (due to the nature of their subspecialty and the specialty of psychiatry in general), while most psychiatrists work in private practices. With that being said, you also have the option to open your own solo or group practice alongside other psychiatrists or healthcare professionals in a related field, such as neurologists or therapists. You can make more money when owning a private practice, but more responsibility will fall on your shoulders.