What is Psychiatry?

Psychiatry is defined as the study and treatment of mental illness, abnormal behavior, substance abuse and emotional disturbances. Psychiatric help is available for a multitude of reasons including sudden behavioral disturbances like panic attacks, suicidal thoughts or long-term emotional experiences associated with feelings of sadness, hopelessness or anxiety.

What is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical professional who diagnoses and treats mental and behavioral health issues. To practice psychiatry, a psychiatrist must complete medical school and a residency of four or more years in psychiatry. With qualifications to diagnose medical and physical aspects of psychological problems or trauma, psychiatrists are different from a psychologist as psychiatrists can prescribe medications and medical treatments. Psychiatrists work in a variety of settings, including clinics, hospitals, community health centers, research units and social agencies. Psychiatrists can specialize in, but not limited to:

  • Child Psychiatry
  • Addiction Psychiatry
  • Geriatric Psychiatry
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Sleep Medicine

What Does a Psychiatrist Do?

A psychiatrist can perform a wide range of medical and psychological tests to help with a patient's mental and physical well-being. Psychiatrists diagnose very complex mental disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia and many more. Evaluation of a patient begins with questions about their symptoms, difficulties they may be experiencing and coping strategies. Psychiatrists can then develop a treatment plan that may involve therapy, medication or a combination of both.

When to see a Psychiatrist

There are times in life when relationships, work or even medical conditions may become difficult to cope with. These challenges can cause fatigue, sadness, anxiety or mood swings. Feelings such as sadness or grief can impair daily functions and cause withdrawal from friends and family. If you're experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should seek an evaluation from a psychiatrist:

Common Symptoms Treated by Psychiatry

  • Personality change
  • Excessive anxiety
  • Continued feelings of sadness
  • Abuse of drugs and alcohol
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Violent behavior
  • Extreme emotional highs and lows

Common Disorders Treated by Psychiatry

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorders (manic-depressive illness) 
  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Clinical Assessments and Screenings

Our personalized mental health services begin with a full evaluation to identify the scope and severity of problems. Depending on each patient's symptoms, the examination may include:

  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Psychological testing
  • Neurological examination and testing
  • Behavioral assessment
  • Suicide risk assessment 
  • Independent living skills assessment
  • Medication trial and evaluation
  • Social network and resources assessment
  • Medical lab evaluations
  • Family assessment

We may share evaluation results with community professionals, especially in cases when it is appropriate to use the results in developing outpatient treatment plans. We respect our patients' right of confidentiality, and only share information with their permission.



Psychiatrists can prescribe medication to help patients treat their mental disorders. Medications are used to correct the imbalance of chemicals in the body that are often involved with mental illness. Medication is typically used in combination with therapy. Taking medication can be short-term, long-term or even life-long. Patients who are on medication must meet with their psychiatrist at regular intervals to monitor the effects of the medication.


Psychotherapy is when a patient and a therapist meet to discuss the patient's condition, feelings, thoughts and behaviors. This form of therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of mental disorders and emotional problems. Various forms of psychotherapy can help patients understand and change their behaviors, improve troubled relationships and discover the effects of certain life experiences. Types of psychotherapy include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Interpersonal Therapy
  • Pet Therapy

The intent of psychotherapy is to help the patient achieve higher levels of functioning to improve their quality of life. This could be achieved in only a few sessions or it may take several years. Psychotherapy can be done individually or as a family or group. Certain mental illnesses require ongoing therapy sessions.

Benefits of UnityPoint Clinic Psychiatry

UnityPoint Clinic has a team of exceptional psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health therapists to guide you through difficult times and improve your quality of life. We offer a range of treatment options, including supportive therapy, and will provide you with the right tools and coping methods to keep your life in balance.