Psychiatry as a term was first coined by a German physician, Johann Christian Reil, and literally means ‘medical treatment of the soul.’ Psychiatrists complete medical school and then a four-year psychiatric residency. This training provides psychiatrists the advantage of thinking medically, as they think about and treat their patients. Psychiatrists prescribe medications, provide psychotherapy, order labs, neuroimaging and other tests.

When a person’s psyche is overwhelmed by stress or illness, and emotional regulation is difficult to maintain, or function is impaired, medications can be extremely helpful- and even essential. Psychoactive medications work by acting on neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters can be viewed as chemicals through which neurons communicate; and psychoactive drugs affect the mind by altering this communication.

Today, there are cultural pressures for psychiatrists to use a biomedical approach, sometimes at the expense of a psychosocial approach. Scientific advances, study outcomes, economics, corporate interests, and convenience support biomedical approaches. However, the person can get lost in between their data. Although effective and valuable, the biomedical approach needs to be integrated as much as possible with the full person. A narrative needs to be developed. In my practice, I make every effort to integrate the biomedical and the psychosocial approaches.