In conversation with an emerging Psychiatrist

by Prachi Bhatia 
October 22, 2020
In conversation with an emerging Psychiatrist
Shivani Dua

Shivani Dua

M.B.B.S (MGM, Indore) and pursuing MD Psychiatry (KIMS, Bhubhaneshwar)

The most common question we, as mental health professionals and advocates, are asked by people is “What is the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?”. Psychiatry as a field of medicine has grown in the past five years in India and is emerging with time. In India, a country that inhabits a mammoth population of over 1.3 billion, the number of psychiatrists is presently about 9000, a frightfully meagre figure to accommodate the mental health needs of the nation. Furthermore, this statistic emphasizes the scarce availability of good quality mental healthcare in India, urging an immediate need to spread awareness and work towards making care available with acute speed and efficiency.

We had the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with Dr. Shivani Dua (MBBS from MGM college, Indore, & currently pursuing her MD in Psychiatry, Bhubaneswar) that helped us take a peek at a Psychiatrist’s perspective on the topic of mental health in India. In conversation with Dr. Dua, an emerging psychiatrist, we touched on some basic FAQs and commonly misunderstood concepts in the field of mental healthcare that may provide interesting insights to Psychology students, practitioners, enthusiasts and individuals struggling with mental health challenges.

Q: “What is the difference in the work that Psychiatrists and Psychologists do? Are clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists the same kind of professionals?”

A: “There is a vast difference in the work done by a clinical Psychologist and a Psychiatrist”, explained Dr. Dua. “Starting with the difference in their education qualifications. In order to become a Psychiatrist one has to undergo 8 years of formal education, 5 years of MBBS and 3 years of post graduation where one specializes in Psychiatry. Whereas, for clinical Psychologists, 5 years of formal education (3 years BA/BSc , 2 years MA/MSc majors in clinical Psychology) with 2 to 3 years of training and experience is required. More importantly, Psychiatrists prescribe medications, while clinical Psychologists on the other hand work towards psychometric testing and therapy. Both professionals have an idea of each other’s work, like a Psychiatrist studies and understand the basics of therapy, but a Psychologist has an expertise in that subject matter and will know how to take it further for successful results. Likewise, Psychologists have a basic idea of the medications prescribed by doctors, but cannot self prescribe it to individuals.”

Q: “According to you, is therapy an essential? And Why?”

A: “A Psychiatrist’s job pertains to diagnosis of the mental health challenge and prescription of relevant medications. Therapy is usually the next step in the process and a very important one. A lot of people who take medications refuse to pursue further treatment when they start feeling better. The psychiatrist cannot keep a tab on whether the individual is actually taking the medicines or not, and may not be able to track the individual’s progress. Therapy helps ensure continued progress of the individual. Besides, therapy helps develop better coping strategies in case of relapse of the problem. Medications alone cannot do that, thus, therapy is also essential”.

Q: “Why do you think they form a good team?”

A: Dr. Dua explains that both the professionals should always be seen as collaborating with one another. “In order to treat a number of disorders, like depression for example, best results are seen when both medications as well as therapy are sought by the individual. Both professions co-exist and are codependent. It does not mean that they cannot function in isolation but just that the results are always better when combined, thus, it is advised to work as a collaborative team.” Dr. Dua concluded that they form a wonderful team because they help each other gain

clarity about the client’s conditions ensuring best possible care.

Q: “What do you think about the taboo associated with seeing a mental health professional in India?”

A: “In India, there is still a lot of taboo and stigma associated with the idea of seeing a

Psychiatrist/Psychologist. Our culture has long ignored the need for mental healthcare, and people still believe that a person consulting a mental health professional is “crazy/mad/psycho”. In urban sections of our society, people are coming to terms with the realization that mental health challenges are real and relevant, and are thus, less reluctant in seeking care. However, the majority of the population in India has not yet warmed up to the idea of mental health care, resulting in a wide range of potential for the eradication of stigma, hesitation, or shame associated with seeking care.”

Q: “What is the scope of Psychiatry/Psychology in India according to you?”

Dr. Dua explained that five years ago when she took up Psychiatry, there were just 3 other girls with her in class, and today they have around 700 psychiatry graduates a year. “So definitely there has been an improvement in the situation. However, there is still a long way to go”, says Shivani. Nevertheless, the scope in both fields, Psychiatry and Psychology, is growing rapidly with each passing day, as people are becoming more and more aware and recognizing the importance of mental healthcare. There is hope!

Prachi Bhatia,
Clinical and Research Intern,