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How do you become a mental health doctor?

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To become a psychiatrist, or a physician who deals with mental health issues, a person must graduate from an accredited medical school and complete a residency in psychiatry, according to the California Psychiatric Association. Four years of study in medical school are required, followed by four years in the residency.

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In medical school, future psychiatrists learn the basics of medical care, including family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, psychiatry and pediatrics, says the California Psychiatric Association. During the first year of the subsequent residency in psychiatry, students learn to perform initial clinical and laboratory studies of patients with a variety of disorders. Students also learn to care for patients, make referrals and understand the inter-relationship between psychiatric and medical diagnoses.

In years two through four of the psychiatric residency, students continue to learn about the biological, psychological and sociocultural factors contributing to disorders, writes the California Psychiatric Association. Students also learn to analyze data to help reach a diagnosis and devise a plan for treatment. During clinical training, psychiatrists learn about the different psychiatric subfields. They also learn about psychological testing and collaboration with psychologists, psychiatric nurses and social workers, as well as studying neurology and continuous care. Psychiatric residents must gain experience diagnosing and treating a wide variety of patients and illnesses.

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