Last updated December 31, 2014

The granddaddy of psychiatry is Sigmund Freud, born in 1856. Freud came up with many concepts that are now a part of psychiatry -- and of popular culture. These include the ego, the unconscious, the slip of the tongue, and repression. Freud invented psychoanalysis ("the talking cure"). And he didn't just talk the talk; he walked the walk, doing self-analysis to test out his ideas.

Although many of his controversial ideas have been rejected by today’s psychiatrists, Freud left behind a body of work that still grips our cultural imagination.

Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in the physical causes and effects of mental illness. Some focus on talk therapy, helping patients heal through talking about their problems, and others focus on treating illness with medication. Many combine these approaches.

Did You Know?

Unlike psychoanalysts, who focus on the unconscious, psychiatrists who take a cognitive approach focus on the way their patients think about themselves and the world around them.

Are You Ready To...?

  • Evaluate medical histories
  • Diagnose patients (decide which illness they have)
  • Give medical tests
  • Prescribe medication
  • Talk with patients one-on-one and in groups
  • Keep up with advances in medicine and therapy
  • Complete insurance paperwork

It Helps To Be...

Highly motivated -- both the training and the work are very demanding. You'll need to be a good communicator who's emotionally stable and able to make sound, well-informed decisions.

Make High School Count

  • Take as many advanced science classes as you can.
  • Sign up for psychology to learn about human thought, emotions, and behavior.
  • Become a peer counselor at your school.
  • Read biographies of famous psychiatrists such as Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein.
  • Volunteer at a hospital.
  • Shoot for leadership positions in extracurricular activities in and out of school.

Did You Know?

The field of psychiatry has changed radically with the introduction of drugs such as Xanax (for anxiety) and Prozac (for depression).