Psychiatry Essay Sample

The RANZCP Critical Essay (CEQ) Exam is now marked at a Junior Consultant Psychiatrist level and hence requires an additional layer of sophistication in writing the essay. I’ve tried to distill the process into 5 key tips that will help you plan the essay. Click on image below to enlarge.

1. Bring out the uncertainty in the quote:

Most candidates look at the quote and write the essay in a uni-directional manner searching for evidence that supports the quote. A critical essay however requires you to examine the counter-argument. So don’t forget to do that.

2. Use Multiple Perspectives (cultural, political, social, biological, media, clinical, recovery etc.):

The perspectives that you can use have been covered here. Use linking statements to seamlessly flow between paragraphs.
“Taking into account the cultural perspective…”, “Whilst the cultural perspective suggests….., the biological perspective sheds new light on our conceptualisation of.”..

A list of linking and contrasting words is provided as pre-course material for the Psych Scene Essay course.

3. Ask yourself “ What are the practical examples that support my perspectives?”:

Use research, clinical experience, patient and individual experiences to enrich the essay.

4. Ask yourself “Can I think of solutions for the issue/s?”:

Think of solutions broadly. How can social media help? What is the role of governments and pharmaceutical companies. Do we need a paradigm shift in societal perspectives?

5. Ask yourself “What does the big picture of the argument tell me about my conclusion?” Weigh up the evidence argued to come to a balanced conclusion.

The Psych Scene Critical Essay Writing Course will cover the above and examine candidate essays breaking them down into parts to explore various arguments. At the end of the course, candidates will be enriched in perspectives and styles of writing. Pre-and Post-course essay critiquing will be carried out by Dr Sanil Rege (Psychiatrist) and Michelle Guillemard (Experienced medical writer and founder of health writer hub).

Practice using the above tips and you will find your essays improving. Good Luck!


In my experience, most medical students enjoy learning about mental illness and talking to mentally ill people, who often have a refreshing knack for saying things exactly how they are. In a fit of inspiration, some medical students tell me that psychiatry is the only specialty that enables them to think about themselves, about other people, and about life in general. They also like the lifestyle (in the UK): an hour for each patient, ‘special interest’ days, protected time for teaching, light on calls from home, and guaranteed career progression. In medicine they might treat yet another anonymous case of asthma, chest pain, or pulmonary oedema. In surgery they might do one knee replacement after another, up until the day they retire or collapse. But in psychiatry there can be no factory line, no standard procedure, and no mindless protocol: each patient is unique, and each patient has something unique to return to the psychiatrist. I often come across those same students again, months or sometimes years later. After the smiles and the niceties, it transpires that they are no longer so interested in psychiatry. So what happened?

The students are never too sure, but I think I have an idea. When I was a medical student in London, an American firm offered me a highly paid job as a strategy consultant in their Paris office. So I glady left medicine, and the many inconveniences of working in (and increasingly ‘for’) the National Health Service. I had a great time in Paris, but the job itself turned out to be more about dealing with personality disorders than about having brilliant ideas. I quit after six months and freelanced as an English tutor to high-flying executives, bankers, venture capitalists, and such like. As my clients already spoke good English and merely wanted to improve their fluency, all I had to do was to make conversation with them. My lessons often turned into something akin to psychotherapy, as I realised that I could make my clients open their hearts and minds simply by listening to them speak. Although they seemed to have everything in life, they were actually deeply unhappy, and had rarely stopped to ask themselves why. I wanted to find out why, so I decided to go back to the UK, do my house jobs (internships), and specialise in psychiatry. I had always been far too ‘ambitious’ to consider psychiatry, but by then it had become clear that I didn’t want to pursue a career that didn’t allow me to think and feel, and to relate to others and to the world in a genuine and meaningful way. There are not many such jobs, but psychiatry—along with general practice, teaching, academia, and the clergy—is certainly one of them, and even, arguably, their archetypal form.

The following year while going about my house jobs I put up with all sorts of abuse from my colleagues in medicine and surgery. One of the other house officers (interns), by then a good buddy, took me aside one day and said with an alcoholic mixture of concern and disdain: ‘Why do you want to go into psychiatry? You’re a good doctor. Can’t you see you’re wasting your talents?’ It became very clear, first, that the stigma that people with a mental disorder are made to feel also extends to the doctors who look after them; and, second, that this stigma emanates most strongly from the medical profession itself, mired as it is in middle class preoccupations and prejudices and, as a whole, far too grounded in neurosis not to be terrified of psychosis.

Of course, it is simply not true that psychiatry is ‘a waste of talent’. The term ‘psychiatry’ was first used 200 years ago in 1808, in a 188-page paper by Johann Christian Reil. In this paper, Reil argued for the urgent creation of a medical specialty to be called ‘psychiatry’, and contended that only the very best physicians had the skills to join it. These physicians needed to have not only an understanding of the body, but also a much broader range of skills than standard physicians. Indeed, a psychiatrist can change a person’s entire outlook with a single sentence, so long as he can find the right words at the right time. No protocols, no high-tech equipment or expensive drugs, no pain or side-effects, and no complications or follow-up. Now that is talent, and one so great that I can only ever aim at it. And each time I fail, I always have medicine to fall back upon.

Neel Burton is author of Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the EmotionsThe Meaning of Madness, and other books.

Find Neel on Twitter and Facebook

'Psychiatry' derives from the Greek 'psyche' (soul, butterfly) and 'iatros' (healing), and means 'healing of the soul'. In Greek myth, Psyche's lover was no other than Eros.

Source: Wikicommons

Source: Neel Burton

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