2 answers

Should I pursue psychiatry or another mental health career?

Asked Hoffman Estates, Illinois

Currently, I'm a sophomore on the pre-med track to medical school due to my interest in such careers as psychiatry, obstetrics/gynecology, family medicine, etc. (honestly, who knows). For the sake of this question, let's say I know I want to pursue a mental health career and would become a psychiatrist if I went to medical school. I'm wondering if I could feel just as (or even more) fulfilled if I chose to pursue another mental health career, instead? (I'm especially interested in clinical social work, but also in licensed professional counseling and clinical psychology-- I'm having a tough time distinguishing between all of them.) Would the extensive commitment required for medical school be worth it, then? Is the main difference really just the ability to prescribe drugs? Hopefully these questions make sense, or at least convey my confusion in this daunting journey of choosing a career! #medicine #clinical-social-work #psychology #mental-health

2 answers

Dr. Ray’s Answer

Updated Fort Worth, Texas

Dear Gabrielle,

I sympathize with your dilemma. Having broad interests can feel like a curse when you have to narrow your choices. however it also means that you would probably enjoy a variety of different types of work. I personally don't believe there is just one job or field for every person.

If you are truly interested in the mental health field, psychiatry some drawbacks as a field. Psychiatrists spend four years in medical school and a one year internship studying physical illnesses and treatments. This can be really interesting but has very little to do with mental health and illness. Additionally, psychiatrists today prescribe medication and do not do any "talk therapy," which is now the domain of psychologists, social workers and counselors. While this is very important work it means that psychiatrists spend very little time getting to know their patients and interacting with them.

I considered and rejected medical school and became a clinical psychologist instead. I did "talk therapy" and evaluations for 40 plus years and never regretted this decision. Obviously if you have interests in other fields of physical medicine your decision might be different.

I hope this is of some help to you. I wish you the best in your career pursuits.

Ray Finn, Ph.D.


KIEYA’s Answer

Updated Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Because you have so many interests I would say that you should major in a broad field. I had many interests like you and considered going to secondary schooling. My major was Biobehavioral Health which is a combination of biology, sociology, psychology, and human development aiming to promote healthy behaviors to prevent communicable and non communicable diseases. I have experience as an HIV Counselor and I absolutely loved the behavioral type of counseling.