Frequently Asked Questions

External Affairs & Policy

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For more information on Psychiatry in general, visit our What is Psychiatry? page.

For information on how to become a psychiatrist and Postgraduate Training, visit our Frequently Asked Questions about PGT page.

Please note: The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland cannot provide referrals or recommendations to a psychiatrist.

An appointment with a psychiatrist can only be obtained by referral from a general practitioner (GP) or family doctor, or in emergency situations through a local HSE mental health unit.

A GP is usually the first person to help with concerns about a person’s mental health such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, memory problems or dementia. For many mental health problems it is not necessary to see a psychiatrist as a GP will be able to treat them and/or may refer a person to other members of a mental health team, such as a clinical psychologist, occupational therapist, psychotherapist or specialist counsellor.

If a psychiatric referral is required, a GP will either refer you to the local public psychiatrist for your area or may suggest a private psychiatrist if available. In emergency situations, access to mental health services through a local HSE mental health unit may be possible in the absence of a GP.

The College of Psychiatry of Ireland does not provide regional or national lists of psychiatrists. If you think you have a mental health problem please do not hesitate to discuss this with a GP. Early intervention and treatment of a problem is vital to alleviate or avoid suffering.

Psychiatrists are doctors who look after patients with mental health problems. They assess patients, make diagnoses, they may investigate medical problems, offer advice, and recommend different treatments including medication, counselling or other life style interventions. Treatment of patients with mental health problems depends on a wide range of professionals including psychiatric nurses, social workers, clinical psychologists, psychotherapists and occupational therapists. The psychiatrist works together with these professionals as part of a multidisciplinary team. Psychiatrists also are involved in teaching, audit and research.

A person in good mental health generally feels happy, confident and sociable. As many as one in five people will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime sufficient to warrant medical help. This may range from mild anxiety when driving after an accident to severe depression. Many people do not seek the excellent help available for mental problems and suffer needlessly.

The range of physical and psychological treatments is increasing all the time. Most people take their mental health for granted and are unaware that it is as important to care for their mind in the same way that they care for their body.

Psychiatrists are at the forefront of understanding and treating mental health problems. It is worth visiting a GP to discuss a mental health problem to decide if the help of psychiatrist is needed.

A psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor who has undergone at least 7 years post graduate specialist training in psychiatry approved by the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland. Currently, part of that training requires successful completion of the MRCPsych examinations.

Over those 7 years, a trainee psychiatrist gains experience in a wide range of psychiatric problems with an emphasis in the area in which they hope to specialise.

Psychiatry is an ever-evolving specialty and training is constantly being updated to respond to this.

Psychiatrists are listed as doctors and as specialists in psychiatry with the Medical Council. They will typically have MB B.Ch Bao and MRCPsych listed after their name. They may have other specialist qualifications as well.

The Medical Council lists are public and therefore can be accessed by anyone via the Medical Council website.

Section 43(8) of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 requires all registered medical practitioners to quote their registration number on all medical prescriptions and all other documentation and records, whether in paper or electronic format, relating to their medical practice.

Psychiatrists use three approaches to understanding and treating mental illness. These are the physical, emotional (also called psychological) and social dimensions. The psychiatrist carefully assesses each person’s problems. This assessment will include a detailed interview and on occasion, interviews with other relevant people. The psychiatrist may do a physical exam if there is any possibility of relevant physical problems. They may order blood investigations or a CT scan of the brain. They may also request a more detailed examination of an aspect of mental functioning, such as memory, from a psychologist.

Most psychiatric assessments are fairly straightforward but some may take days or even weeks to complete. The majority of psychiatric assessments and treatments are carried out for a person as an outpatient. Occasionally however, an admission to a specialist hospital is required.

On completion of the assessment the psychiatrist will discuss the treatment plan. Each plan is tailored to the individual person, their illness, and lifestyle and as far as possible their preferences.

The psychiatrist’s choice of a treatment is based on its proven effectiveness in treating a symptom or illness. Psychiatric treatments (medications and counselling/psychotherapies) are researched and scrutinised in the same rigorous way as all other medical treatments.

In Ireland psychiatrists work in a variety of settings. These include general and psychiatric hospitals, universities, community mental health services and private clinics.

Psychiatrists work in teams that care for adults, adolescents and children. These teams are generally based in the community. Some psychiatrists work in prisons services. The HSE employs many psychiatrists. There should be a certain number of General Adult Psychiatrists for every 30,000 people. These psychiatrists are allocated geographically, so wherever you live in Ireland there is a psychiatrist employed to treat you if you become mentally unwell. Whereas the allocation of adult psychiatrists is reasonably good, there is a major shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists and of psychiatrists specialising in particular mental health problems.

Psychiatrists are also involved in a broad range of community issues and organisations and are often called on to assist both government and non-government agencies in the development of mental health services and policies.

For more information on where psychiatrists work and the outlook for deliverance of psychiatric services into the future, click here.

The majority of psychiatrists work as general adult psychiatrists, while others specialise within the field of psychiatry. The specialties that have developed include Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychiatry of Old Age, Learning Disability, Liaison Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy.

Psychiatrists also act as consultants in certain specialty programmes, such as for drug and alcohol addiction, psychosis and eating disorders.

To read more about these specialty programmes which are done in collaboration with the HSE, click here.

For more information about Specialist areas of Psychiatry, click here.

A psychiatrist has a Medical Degree (MD) and is a medical doctor who further trains for 7-8 years in psychiatry, which specialises in the care and treatment of people with mental illness and mental disorders.

A psychologist obtains an primary honours degree in psychology first and then must undertake further education and specialist training to develop a career in psychology. Psychology is the study of the human mind examining human experiences such as human emotions, thoughts and actions.

Psychologist may work in a variety of settings such as education, career psychology or mental health.

In the treatment and diagnosis of mental illness, psychiatrists and psychologists work closely together. Some of the assessments and treatments they use are similar.

A psychiatrist will refer to a psychologist if they feel further evaluation of a particular aspect of mental functioning such as memory testing is required. They may also refer to a psychologist if a psychological treatment in which the psychologist is a specialist is required.

A psychologist will refer to the psychiatrist if further evaluation of the patient is required or to assess the value of adding medication or other specialist treatments to the treatment plan.