Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How to contact a psychiatrist

An appointment with a psychiatrist can only be obtained by referral from a general practitioner.
(GP)/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/ 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.

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

Are lists of psychiatrists available?

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.

What is a psychiatrist?

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 team. Psychiatrists also are involved in teaching, audit and research.

What is mental illness?

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.

How do psychiatrists train in Ireland?
The psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor who has undergone at least 7 years post graduate specialist training (in psychiatry) approved by The College of Psychiatry of Ireland. Currently, part of that training requires successful completion of the MRCPsych examinations.

Over the 7 years the 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 up-dated to respond to this.

What recognised official qualifications should a psychiatrist working in Ireland have?
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 and may have other specialist qualifications also.

The Medical Council lists are public and therefore can be seen by everybody.

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.

What are the treatments used by psychiatrists?

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 relevant others. He may do a physical exam if there is any possibility of relevant physical problems. He may order blood investigations or a CT scan of the brain. He may 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. .

Where do psychiatrists work?
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 is one adult psychiatrist for approx every 30.000 section of the population. 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.

What are specialist areas of psychiatry?

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, forensic psychiatry (concerned with legal, compensation and criminal cases) psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

Psychiatrists also act as consultants in drug and alcohol programmes.

Liaison Psychiatrists specialise in the assessment and treatment of mental health problems that present in the general hospital setting and in medically patients.

What is the differences between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
A psychiatrist has a Medical Degree(MD) and is a medical doctor who further trains 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 he feels further evaluation of a particular aspect of mental functioning such as memory testing is required. He 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 to the treatment plan.