Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Psychotherapy Training in Psychiatrists

Ever wonder what kind of psychotherapy training psychiatrists get in medical school? Apparently it isn't a lot. If I wasn't sitting down when I read this article I very well might have fallen out of my chair.

I was recently forward an article from The Psychiatric Times. I'm just going to bullet point the things that shocked me:
  • residents must have an equivalent of 12 months of full-time, organized, continuous, supervised clinical experience in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of outpatients in both short-term and long-term care
  • forty medical schools in the US and Canada report some limited instruction in psychotherapy as part of the curriculum 
  • the instruction occurred at varying times throughout the four years of medical school and was often part of a one hour session
I'm beyond shocked and am going to have to phone a psychiatrist friend or two. While I'm sure the article is true, I'm feeling the need to do my own fact checking. I know many talented psychiatrists that I would comfortably refer a loved one to for psychotherapy. Surely they must have had more than the minimum training.

As a comparison, they average psychologist has had at least 1,200 hours of training while in school, a 2,000 hour internship, and an additional 2000 hours of training after earning their doctoral degree. That's just work experience, not classroom instruction.

My no means am I posting this to suggest that psychologists are better than psychiatrists. I've not personally done a comparison of how the two different fields train students to do psychotherapy.
I am posting this because I am shocked. I am reminded how important it is to be an informed client. 

Don't be afraid to ask your therapist about their training. In light of this information, I think it's important to know if a psychiatrist has done the minimum training or if they have sought additional education and experience.

Want to read the article?

Tucker, P.M., Garton, T.S., Foote, A.L., and Candler, C. (December 1, 2009). In Support of Early Psychotherapy Training. Psychiatric Times, 12. 

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