What is Involved in a Psychiatry Residency?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2019
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In a psychiatry residency, doctors interested in practicing psychiatry will be provided with classroom training, clinical experience, and other tools for professional development. The length of a psychiatry residency varies, depending on the country where a doctor is receiving training; in the United States, for example, it lasts four years. The curriculum is usually unique to the institution, with the goal of preparing residents to practice psychiatry after leaving the program, and graduates of psychiatry residencies are typically ready to take board certification exams in the field of psychiatry.

Medical students who plan to pursue a career in psychiatry typically apply to a number of residency programs, taking the time to visit programs and interview. While there, students can meet current interns and residents and get information about the program. Students then produce a ranked list of residency programs they wish to attend and submit them for matching; residency programs likewise offer a ranked list, and the goal is to match every medical student with an appropriate residency program.

Under the four-year model, the first year of a psychiatry residency is spent providing students with a thorough grounding in different models of mental illness, the application of medications to the treatment of mental illness, and other issues. Students have some opportunities to interact with patients and may be provided with some elective activities to learn more about specific subfields within psychiatry.


In the second year, more clinical practice opportunities are available. Residents observe patient care and work with patients, and begin proceeding through a number of elective units to get exposure to different kinds of psychiatric practice. Medical residency programs usually have relations with a number of area hospitals, allowing residents to work in emergency rooms, private hospitals, public facilities, and various psychiatric clinics.

The third year of a psychiatry residency provides residents with more opportunities to develop patient relationships and practice psychiatry. Residents are allowed increasing levels of autonomy in patient care as they provide psychiatric services. They can also pursue electives if they are interested in topics like forensic psychiatry or specific mental health issues. In the fourth year, people can pursue research, more electives, and refinement of their clinical training so they are ready for psychiatric practice.

A typical psychiatry residency program will focus on either adult or adolescent and child psychiatry, providing training unique to these groups. Usually people in both types of programs have some exposure to patients of other ages and are provided with elective opportunities to learn more. While in residency, many psychiatrists pursue psychotherapy for themselves, as well as receiving training in different models of psychotherapy so they can offer these services to their patients.


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