Frequently Asked Questions - How to get help
MOST POPULAR QUESTIONS
How to contact a psychiatrist
How to make a complaint
Where can I get further information (assistance)?
Information about the College
A Career in Psychiatry?
Q: What is the
difference between a psychiatrist, a psychologist, psychotherapist
and a community mental health team?
A psychiatrist is a
medically-qualified practitioner who will have spent 5-6 years
training as a doctor. He or she will then have worked as a doctor
in general medicine and surgery for at least a year. He or she will
then have had at least 6 years of further training in helping
people with psychological problems.
What are a psychiatrist’s
All psychiatrists will learn
- assess a person's state of
- use the “biopsychosocial”
model of understanding. This emphasises the importance of a
person's past experiences, family, culture, surroundings and work
as well as any medical features.
- diagnose a mental
- use a range of
- use a range of
- help a person recover
As well as these 'core'
skills, a psychiatrist will specialise and develop skills in
working with the particular problems that affect different groups
Psychologists have a degree
in psychology. Chartered Clinical Psychologists are not usually
medically-trained, but have undertaken a long and robust training
following their psychology degree. They are primarily concerned
with the study of how people think, act, react and interact. For
further information about psychology, visit the British Psychological Society
A psychotherapist may be a
psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional who
has had further specialist training in psychotherapy. As well as
listening and discussing important issues with you, the
psychotherapist can suggest strategies for resolving problems and,
if necessary, help you to change your attitudes and behaviour.
Health Team is a group of mental health professionals who work
together to help people with a wide range of mental health
problems. The different professions all have different knowledge
and skills which can be used to tackle problems together.
Further information on
the differences between psychiatry, psychology
Q. How can I
see a psychiatrist?
To see a psychiatrist, you
will usually need a referral from your general practitioner (GP),
in the same way you would with any other specialist. Within the
NHS, most referrals will go to the mental health team. Initially,
you may be seen by a team member who is not a psychiatrist. If the
team member feels that you ought to see a psychiatrist, they will
arrange an appointment for you.
Q. How can I
see a psychiatrist privately?
Most private psychiatrists
would still prefer a referral from your GP. Your GP may be able to
recommend psychiatrists who practise privately. Local private
hospitals may also be able to advise you about this. Some
psychiatrists may advertise in your local business directory. If
they have the title 'MRCPsych' (Member of the Royal College of
Psychiatrists) or ‘FRCPsych’ (Fellow of the Royal College of
Psychiatrists), this means that they are current members of the
Q. What kind of
psychiatrist can I be referred to?
You will most likely be
referred to a psychiatrist who specialises in an area of psychiatry
that relates to your problem. The areas include:
Q. Can the
College provide a list of psychiatrists?
The College is unable to
recommend or supply names of psychiatrists. In order to find a
psychiatrist, you should ask your GP or local hospital. You can
obtain lists of local GPs, from your pharmacist and/or hospitals by
contacting NHS Choices.
Q. Is the
psychiatrist a member of the College?
You can search the
Public Online Membership List to confirm whether or not the
psychiatrist is a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Please note, not all psychiatrists are members of the College.
Q. Can I
speak to a psychiatrist at the College?
The Royal College of
Psychiatrists is the professional body for psychiatrists in the UK,
but the College is unable to supply names of members, or to
Q. How can I find out what speciality a
psychiatrist is trained in?
You can search for their
details on the Medical
Register, a directory of all doctors practising in the UK, by
visiting the General Medical Council
The majority of psychiatrists
work within (NHS) the National Health Service, although some work
privately. Psychiatrists also work as part of a
mental health team.
qualification does a psychiatrist need?
A qualified psychiatrist will
have a medical degree. They will then have completed two
years of Foundation Training and a further six years of specialty
training within psychiatry.
To become a consultant
psychiatrist, they would also need to obtain a Certificate of
Completion of Training (CCT), be fully registered with the General
Medical Council (GMC) and listed on their Specialist
Q: How do I
find a psychiatrist in another country?
The Royal College of
Psychiatrists is the professional and educational body for
psychiatrists in the United Kingdom. It is not possible to include
information on issues outside of our geographical area as the
availability of mental health services, local legislation, and the
types of treatments available is different in each country.
We are only able to comment on psychiatric practice in the United
You will be able to find
which psychiatric organisation is relevant to your country by
looking at the World Psychiatric Association
website. The World Psychiatric Association is a group of
International Psychiatric Societies.
Q: What do I do if I am unhappy with my
Everyone is entitled to a
second opinion. You need to ask your GP, or your
psychiatrist, to refer you to another psychiatrist for a second
Q: How do I make a complaint about my care
and treatment or the care and treatment of another?
The Royal College of
Psychiatrists is not the disciplinary body for its members and, as
such, is not able to deal with complaints about psychiatrists. You
can write to, or speak with your psychiatrist to tell them how you
feel about your care and treatment. Your hospital will have a
complaints procedure. To make a complaint, contact either the
Complaints Officer or the relevant Hospital Manager, or ask
somebody to do this on your behalf.
If you have concerns about a
hospital, care home or health service, you should contact the body
which is responsible for the inspection, monitoring and regulation
of health and social care in your area
Q: How do I make
a complaint about the conduct of a psychiatrist?
You can complain directly to
your psychiatrist. If you are unhappy with their response, you
can complain to their employer, clinic or hospital. If
the complaint is to report serious misconduct, you can
complain to the General Medical
Council (Tel: 0161 923 6602). The last step for dealing
with unresolved complaints is to contact the Health Service Ombudsman (Tel:
0345 015 4033) who acts as a final arbitrator.
Q: What should I do if I wish to make a
complaint about a psychiatrist working in the private/independent
You can complain to the
clinic where the psychiatrist works. In cases of professional
misconduct, you can also contact the General Medical Council (Tel:
0161 923 6602).
Q: If I'm sectioned under the Mental Health Act,
how do I make a complaint?
If your complaint is about
the use of the Mental Health Act, you can contact the Care Quality Commission (Tel:
03000 616161). You can write or speak to the Complaints Officer at
the hospital, or ask somebody to do this on your behalf.
should I do if I am worried about a relative or
You should encourage them to
go and see their GP. Further information about mental health
problems and their treatment are available on our website.
If you are worried about
someone who is very unwell and appear to be a risk to themselves or
others, you can call the police or NHS
111 (Tel: 111). The police can take someone who appears to
be very ill to a mental health professional for assessment and
else can I talk to if I am worried about a mental health
There are many organisations
that run helplines with advice, information and support. Details of
key helpline numbers and website addresses can be found on the
Q: How can I find out more about a mental
health topic or problem?
The College publishes a
series of leaflets which give information about different mental
health problems and treatments. These are free to view and download
from our website.
Q: How do I get further information
about the medication?
There are many different ways
to find out this information. You can ask your:
- Mental Health Team
You could look up medications
in the British National Formulary
(BNF). This is a directory of drugs which are listed
alphabetically. There is an entry for every drug which gives
information on dosage and side-effects, etc…
Some drug companies run
helplines. Contact details are available on the drug
information leaflet or pack label.
The Electronic Medicines
Compendium (EMC) website stores a copy of all approved
drug information leaflets.
The College has also
published information on some drugs
and therapies that are used to treat specific mental health
problems, such as Alzheimer's disease.
Q: How do I get hold of a psychiatrist
who will act as an 'expert witness'?
The College cannot to
recommend or supply names of psychiatrists.
Solicitors can search through
the lists of psychiatrists that are registered with any of the
Q: What is the 1983 Mental Health
The Mental Health Act is an
Act of Parliament that allows for people who are mentally unwell to
be admitted to hospital for assessment and treatment against their
wishes. Many people will be admitted to hospital as informal
patients; this means that they have voluntarily agreed to
go. However, compulsory admission may sometimes be necessary
when someone who has such severe problems that they are a risk to
their own health or the health or safety of other people, and
refuse to go to hospital. In these cases, compulsory admission can
be arranged under one of the sections of the 1983 Mental Health
Act, and the person is detained 'on section' (or 'sectioned').
Q: What does it mean
to be 'sectioned'?
The College has produced a
factsheet on being detained on a section in England and
Wales. The factsheet also includes links to
organisations which provide information on being detained on a
section on Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Q: How can I access my health
To request access to your
health records, you must make a request in writing, or by email,
- for GP records, your doctor.
- for hospital records, the hospital's Records
The maximum fee charged is
£10 for computer records, or £50 for copies of paper records, or a
mixture of computer and paper records. Your records are
protected by the Data
Q: I need urgent support:
You can contact the following
Q: I need urgent medical
Contact one of the
Q: I am in a public
place and I am concerned that someone is very ill and may be a risk
to themselves or others:
Call the police, or the
ambulance service (999). The police can take
someone who appears very ill to see a doctor for assessment and
Q: What does the
Royal College of Psychiatrists do?
The Royal College of
Psychiatrists is the professional medical body responsible for
supporting psychiatrists throughout their careers, from training
through to retirement, and in setting and raising standards for
psychiatry in the United Kingdom.
The College aims to improve the outcomes of people with mental
illness, and the mental health of individuals, their families and
communities. In order to achieve this, the College sets
standards and promotes excellence in psychiatry; leads, represents
and supports psychiatrists; improved the scientific understanding
of mental illness; works with and advocates for patients, carers
and their organisations. Nationally and internationally, the
College has a vital role in representing the expertise of the
psychiatric profession to governments and other agencies.
For further information about
the history of the College and its work, visit the College
Q: What is a Member or Fellow of
Members of the College are
awarded different grades of membership depending on various
- the contribution they have made to the field
- their degree of experience as a professional
- the amount of time they have been a
For further information see
About College Membership.
Q: I am a
member of the public and would like to know more about, or become
involved in the work of the College?
If you are a member of the
public and would like to hear more about what the College is doing,
or be involved in the work of the College, such as new
publications, consultations about policy issues, or even help us to
improve mental health services, you can join the College Service User and Carer
Q: I am interested in a
career in psychiatry
If you are still at school,
you can find information about the psychiatric profession and how
to become a psychiatrist:
Information for Sixth Formers and also take our quiz to see whether you would make a
If you're a medical student
who is interested in specialising in psychiatry, you can find
information about further training, day-to-day work and the areas
of specialisation on:
Information for Medical Students and Foundation Trainees.