Career Options for Psychologists and Psychiatrists

By | March 30, 2017

The rise in mental health problems attributed to our fast-paced and stressful environment has facilitated greater demand for psychologists and psychiatrists.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities in psychology and psychiatry will continue to grow over the next decade. The website for the Bureau states: “Employment in healthcare will grow fastest in outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment clinics. Numerous job opportunities will also arise in schools, public and private social service agencies, and management consulting services. Companies will use psychologists’ expertise in survey design, analysis, and research, to provide marketing evaluation and statistical analysis. The increase in employee assistance programs, which offer employees help with personal problems, should also spur job growth.” 

Though this estimate cannot be blindly applied, the fact is, today, people are also waking up to the need for good, balanced mental health. The rapid pace of urbanization and the resulting effects on individuals have led to an increase in the number of mental health problems. As a result, the demand for mental health professionals, that is, psychologists and psychiatrists, has also increased manifold. Dr Tej Bahadur Singh, President, Association of Clinical Psychologist and Professor, concurs with this, “The increase in mental health problems among people has led to tremendous scope and demand for mental health professionals. People are now realizing the importance of mental well-being. Hence, there is a possibility of better opportunities for mental health professionals in general.”

PSYCHIATRY VS PSYCHOLOGY
The fundamental difference between psychology and psychiatry is that while psychiatry is a medical degree, psychology is not. Psychologists primarily aid patients through counseling and psychotherapy. A psychiatrist, on the other hand, can prescribe medication and perform ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), in addition to performing psychotherapy. Elaborates Varkha Chulani, Clinical Psychologist, Lila Hospital, “While a psychiatrist treats chemical causes of emotional disturbances through medication and ECTs, a psychotherapist treats attitudinal causes of disturbances. Everyone, who is disturbed, is not necessarily chemically imbalanced, and vice versa.”

SPECIALIZATIONS
There are several fields within psychology and psychiatry – some which both psychologists and psychiatrists can pursue. 
Clinical psychology/ psychiatry
Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists diagnose and treat various mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, including cases of schizophrenia and depression.clinical psychology programs is concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders. Distinguishing the means by which clinical psychiatrists and psychologists function, Dr Singh says, “Clinical psychiatry generally uses drug treatment to manage mental health problems, while a clinical psychologist uses psychological testing for diagnosis, and subsequently applies psychological methods of treatment, popularly known as psychotherapy. A clinical psychologist has nothing to do with drugs.”

Counseling psychology
Counseling psychologists help people cope with personal problems, including those related to their career or work. Counseling psychologists conduct counseling/ psychotherapy, teaching, and scientific research with individuals of varied backgrounds and ages. They use interviewing and testing techniques to advise people on how to deal with problems of everyday living.

Child and adolescent psychiatry / psychology
Aarti Sharma, a clinical and counseling psychology programs, who takes counseling sessions for school children in St Xavier’s High School, reveals, “The demand for child psychologists in educational institutes is on the rise. In fact, a number of schools even employ psychiatrists to deal with problems, such as study related stress, adolescent problems, low self-esteem, etc, that their students might be facing. Moreover, unlike in the past, when a friendly teacher would be substituted as a counselor, new schools now have a separate counselor’s room or resource rooms, where students can merely walk in and express themselves openly to the counselor.”

Industrial / organizational psychology
Industrial psychologists handle organizational development, training, environmental control and improvement, quality control, motivation and productivity, and can be hired by corporates to either conduct employee training or can even be hired as HR personnel. 

In the current economic crisis, companies are expected to hire more industrial psychologists. Shrabonee Paul, an industrial psychologist from Denver, explains, “Knowledge and experience, shared by an industrial psychologist during recession, would help organizations cut down on unnecessary expenditure, non-productive frills, and control quality aspects in the firm, which are essential for growth even during hard times.”

Drug abuse and psychiatry / addiction psychology
This area deals with addictive and substance abuse behavior. With the rise in alcohol and drug addiction among people of various ages, this field has become very popular.

Forensic psychiatry / psychology
Forensic psychiatrists/ psychologists offer their expertise in a court of law. For instance, they might help a judge decide which parent should have custody of a child, or evaluate a defendant’s mental competence to stand trial.

SKILL SETS
Patience, a friendly and understanding demeanor, good communication skills, an open outlook on life, an ability to maintain patient confidentiality, and an inner emotional balance, are crucial to succeed in this profession.

POISED TO PRACTICE
Mental health professionals can opt to practice at private or public hospitals and clinics. Some may even work with non-profit or support groups. Dr Shetty discloses, “Private practice is financially remunerative, but mental health practice anywhere is challenging and fulfilling. Research and teaching interests can be pursued in teaching hospital departments. However, experts agree that a hospital setting provides a more challenging work environment because one gets to deal with varied problems, whereas private practice may be restricted to handling only specific kinds of difficulties.