How to Become a Geriatric Psychiatrist


Geriatric psychology is one of the many specialties of psychiatry and one can say it also falls under the category of clinical psychology. Geriatric psychiatry focuses on the examination, treatment and prevention of mental disorders and illnesses in the elderly. With old age, the psychological, social and physical needs change and geriatric psychiatrists must provide specialized care to these elderly patients.

The elderly can develop mental disorders or conditions that can be caused be a number of reasons such as grief, isolation, financial stress, fear of death, regret, change, family problems, health issues, and so on. If you enjoy the company of elderly people and if you feel you can improve the quality of life of those in suffering, then you should become a geriatric psychiatrist.

Education Requirements

Educational requirements and standards are usually set quite high for most fields in the medical industry and the situation is no different for a geriatric psychiatrist. This is because when dealing with the lives and futures of patients, it is imperative that strict standards of excellences and procedures are maintained by competent and able beings.

To become a geriatric psychiatrist you must go through medical school and eventually focus on general psychiatry. There is no degree program that focuses entirely on geriatric psychiatry but instead there is a fellowship training system for medical school graduates. It is advised to candidates to complete a residency program in general psychiatry and then to complete a year-long fellowship in geriatric psychiatry.

To further evolve in this career and climb the ladder of success, you should opt for certification which will help you increase your market value. You will need to clear two exams in geriatric psychiatry which are taken by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology ( Furthermore, explore the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry as it is also a recognized board that provides certification in geriatric psychiatry.

Job Duties

As a geriatric psychiatrist you will have a number of duties and tasks assigned to you as you start your career.  Job duties and responsibilities vary depending on your level of experience, size of the practice and the market standards. Use this list as a reference to understand what you may expect to deal with once you start working as a geriatric psychologist.

  1. Carefully and caringly interview the patient to understand what is troubling them. It is important to first fully understand the patient’s frame of mind
  2. Collect the patient’s history and background. Look for clues, hints and events that may have occurred in the past which can help you understand the patient’s condition
  3. Accurately diagnose the mental disorder or issue that the patient is facing. This will help you pinpoint the problem and develop the case
  4. Provide guidance on how to deal with and tackle issues that patients are facing. You need to be a source of comfort to patients
  5. You must provide sound counseling that the patient can understand and relate to. Your advice should reflect research and reason
  6. You should be ready to conduct clinical interviews and observe the behavior of patients in a controlled setting
  7. Give the comfort and confidence to patients that will allow them to be themselves so that they can fully open themselves to you
  8. Consult with other physicians and surgeons on the case to get a second opinion
  9. Prescribe medication and pharmaceutical products that will help patients improve their health
  10. Routinely follow up with patients to ensure that their progress is on track and that the issue does not relapse
  11. If needed, discuss with the patient’s family members on strategies and actions to ensure the patients progress at home
  12. Develop activities, exercises, routines or special diets for patients to help them deal with recovery and prevention

Career Outlook

In these changing times, emphasis and attention has been given to the elderly who are facing mental disorders. At first these mental issues were merely labeled as a byproduct of the aging factor and were comfortably dismissed. Now, individuals and societies can give the care and attention to the elderly they deserve owing to advancements in the medical field.

Furthermore, the average age of the population is gradually increasing which indicates the number of elderly people is on the rise. Given these facts and reasons, the demand for geriatric psychiatrists is on the rise so that they can cater to this population.

Salary Prospects

Due to the fact that geriatric psychology is a niche in the medical industry, it has the potential to reward and compensate its students generously in the future. The average annual salary for a geriatric psychologist is about $138,000 ( As you gain more experience by working with patients and different cases, your market value may appreciate.

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