SDN members see fewer ads and full resolution images. Join our non-profit community!

Is psychiatry right for me?

Discussion in 'Psychiatry' started by Ollie123, May 4, 2007.

  1. Ollie123

    Ollie123 10+ Year Member

    Feb 19, 2007
    First off, this isn't Ollie in case anyone from the psychology board reads this - its a friend of his.

    I graduated with a degree in psychology and am trying to decide between clinical psych and psychiatry. Honestly, I think I COULD do either, but I'm not sure which is best.

    I want to do research on psychopathology. Less interested in actual patient care (though I think its important to have the background, obviously, otherwise I'd be looking at other degrees). I don't ever see myself doing clinical work though, at least not beyond the clinical work required to do say...drug trials if I decide to get involved in that. Parsing out why different antidepressants work for different people sounds like it could be a fun line of work, and I'd have no problems doing things like med management on a clinical trial.

    I've had lots of contents with psychologists, but comparatively little with psychiatrists which is why Ollie suggested I post here.

    My big concern is that while I love basic science classwork, I utterly LOATHE labs and bench work. I imagine there's less bench work in psych than in many other medical fields, but I don't know that for certain. I'm okay in the lab, its not like I'm incompetent. I just hate it. I know it probably sounds weird to have someone interested in research that hates basic science lab work, but that's why I'm looking at psychiatry. I'd love to work with neuroimaging, etc. Exams, assessments, I'm sure I'd enjoy doing things like that.

    Pipetting for hours on end though? Dissection? Not for me. I'd be miserable doing surgery or anything like that.

    That makes me think that med school may not be right for me. How much true "bench work" did you guys do in medical school and as residents? Is it basically just the first 2 years when you are doing lab work? Could you honestly recommend the profession to someone like me? Would I just be torturing myself for a few years as I took gross anat, and did rotations through surg, ob/gyn, and other things that I wouldn't enjoy?

    Right now I'm leaning towards psychology because it seems like a better fit in the sense that I get to focus more on research training, won't be doing ANY bench work, and avoid having to rotate through things like surgery, but I'd love to hear convincing arguments otherwise:) (that's why I'm here). My concern with psych is that I would not get as strong a background in basic science/neurology/etc. as I would with a medical program. Not sure how easy things like that could be picked up on my own though - that could be a better alternative than doing loads of work in areas I don't enjoy.

    Thanks! I greatly appreciate any advice you all have for me.
  2. SDN Members don't see this ad. About the ads.
  3. BrianUM

    BrianUM Future M.D 10+ Year Member

    Jun 15, 2006
    Miami, FL
    it sounds like Neuropsychology PHD may be good for you
  4. Anasazi23

    Anasazi23 Your Digital Ruler Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    If you're not interested in patient care, don't go to med school. It's basically unavoidable.

    Med school doesn't force anyone to do any benchwork to a large degree to my knowledge. I think all med schools are pretty standard in the fact that there is pathology lab, anatomy lab, micro lab...some have physio lab. I don't think I pipetted anything in med school at all. Closest I came to that was preparing agars or plating cultures and gram staining. And even that was limited to the individual classes.

    Your background in human medicine, neurology, and biology from med school will far surpass any clinical psychology program, by nature of the training. Psychology is definately a better route to take if you're interested primarily in social science or some aspects of clinical psychiatry research. Of course, the MD/PhD or DO/PhD route notwithstanding. And of course, you are eligible to conduct research with a medical degree if that's the training you pursue. But, you'll have to endure a lot of tough rotations and see a lot of patients to get there.
  5. Darth Asclepius

    Darth Asclepius Dark Lord of the Sith 5+ Year Member

    Feb 13, 2005
    I can't comment on psychiatry since I'm just an MSII, but I do agree with what has been said. I have done zero pipetting in med school. I don't think medical school prepares you much for a career in research. You can do research rotations, but they can't even begin to compare to PhD training.

    If you hate working with patients, you could find yourself rather unhappy during your clinical years. You will be working with patients all the time, and not just the psych patients you might actually be interested in. Are you sure you don't want to work with patients? I ask because I originally planned to do an MD/PhD with the intent of doing medical research, even got accepted, but found that in the course of fulfilling the typical med school admissions requirements (shadowing and clinical volunteer work) that I really loved working with patients and I thought I would be really good at it (so much so that I requested to go MD only and haven't regretted it a bit). So, if you haven't had much experience with patients, I would suggest giving it a try before you make the decision.

    Not to be a greedy bastard, but I think that money is a concern here. If you really don't want to work with patients, medical school could be a very expensive road that you could regret. You could find yourself $250,000 in debt. A PhD could provide you with a stipend. It's not a lot, but it's better than negative $30-60k per year. Just another thing to consider.

    Good luck with your decision.
  6. whopper

    whopper Former jolly good fellow Physician Faculty 10+ Year Member

    Feb 8, 2004
    I wanted to do psyche since undergrad--where I was a psyche major.

    Medical school IMHO blew. I knew I wanted to work in mental health, wanted psychiatry needed the MD, and went through thousands of hours of classes & studying in areas that had little correlation with psychiatry.

    However now that I'm doing psychiatry--those classes, however tedious do have impact on your practice. A lot of psyche pts have medical problems that psychiatrists tend to ignore and we shouldn't.

    I can't answer your question but if you go to med school you're going to find it much different than psychology. The biochem, histology classes will tick you off. You're going to have to go through years of suffering before you get back to the psych stuff. If you can weather years of this--then psychiatry is not a bad choice.
  7. Ollie123

    Ollie123 10+ Year Member

    Feb 19, 2007
    Thanks for the responses everyone!

    I'm looking at neuropsych, but am unfortunately finding that most of the programs focus on things like intelligence testing or disease's like Alzheimer's, etc. I'm more interested in things like the biological basis for depression, substance use, etc.

    I'm sure there is that kind of stuff out there somewhere though so I will just keep looking.

    I'm definitely not interested in patient care - at least not as a primary goal. I'm a researcher to my core and I love the fact that I get to do it all as an academic(work with people, teach, write, run statistical tests, all within a scientific area). Its not like I'm against ever seeing patients, but I'm getting the impression unless that's a goal, while med school can get me there, its not necessarily the best route.

    I was actually not terribly concerned about the moeny since I always thought academic medicine paid reasonably well (at least by my standards). I hear you start in 6 figures most places (double what psychology tends to pay) and given that I'm perfectly happy living a modest lifestyle I wouldn't be too concerned about being able to pay off loans. Unless that isn't the case and you do struggle to pay off loans as an academic. But given that I'm perfectly fine with the idea of making 50k a year as a psychologist, I imagine earning 100k a year would make debts relatively easy to pay off. \

    So really, what I'm getting is that medicine will give me a stronger overall biology/neurology background, it will also involve jumping through a whole bunch of hoops that are much less related than what I want to do. So for now I think I will focus in on my research and go for a PhD, and just see if the school I go to will allow me to take classes in other departments or the med school. I figure I can always go back to med school if down the line I decide it will help me, but the PhD is the more immediate route to what I want to do, so that shall be my starting point, and I'll just procrastinate figuring out what that end point is for a few more years!

    I really appreciate it everyone, you've all been immensely helpful in providing some perspective on the issue,
  8. OldPsychDoc

    OldPsychDoc Senior Curmudgeon Physician Moderator Emeritus SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2004
    Left of Center
    Have you though about applying MD/PhD for a Neuroscience or Psychobiology program? It would have the advantage of mentored research training, academic "grooming" and limited or no debt load when you're done.
    I certainly wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but you said a couple of key things above...
  9. Ollie123

    Ollie123 10+ Year Member

    Feb 19, 2007
    I've definitely thought about it - I've just heard those programs are insanely competitive and assume I would not have a chance.

    I do pretty well (3.8) but since I did the psych major don't have as strong a science background as some, plus I went to a mediocre-at-best state school so I have doubts of the value of my 3.8 since I barely had to do anything to earn it. I'd study my butt off for the MCATs, but who knows what kind of score I'd get.

    I don't have nearly the volunteer/shadowing/etc. experience that some applicants have. I have psych research experience coming out of my ears (about 5 different labs doing a variety of different kinds of research) though no pubs yet. I'm sure that would help, but given how competitive those kinds of programs are I'm not sure I have a chance.
  10. PsychMD2100

    PsychMD2100 Psychiatrist in Training 2+ Year Member

    Nov 25, 2006
    Near the Danger
    Try the med school route. It may not be exactly what you want for the time being but, long term, an MD leaves many more options open. Economic considerations aside, the MD will allow you to be involved more directly in psychopharmacology, brain imaging, and ECT research as it relates to your stated interest in psychopathology.

    While I've been the product of academic medical institutions, I notice that the major patient-oriented clinical trial research goes to MDs or MD/PHDs. The word on the street is that it's tougher to negotiate the world of academic medicine with a PhD only.

    Med school is a tough road but, even if you don't pick something very "medical", it's rewarding and I don't have any regrets. A massive effort up front pays great dividends many years after the fact.
  11. OldPsychDoc

    OldPsychDoc Senior Curmudgeon Physician Moderator Emeritus SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2004
    Left of Center
    Don't count yourself out. The research experience (and presumably letters from this) will be important. Md/PhD programs are far more interested in getting someone with demonstrated interest in research than some 4.0 student who's totally wet behind the ears (and likely to drop out when the slogging gets rough in the PhD phase!) and just "doing it because they can".

Share This Page