What makes a good psychiatrist? The qualities that define the make-up of a good psychiatrist, like many different professions, have gone through a sea of change due to the evolving roles of psychiatrists in handling mental health issues in society.

“Good Psychiatric Practice” published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists for the first time in 2000 and which has been regularly edited since, documents the basic characteristics of a quality psychiatrist. These qualities include:

  1. Ability to listen well
  2. Ability to communicate well
  3. Possess a high level of awareness towards the patient when it comes to personal boundaries and vulnerabilities
  4. Maintaining a high level of treatment ethics and transparency
  5. A high level of competence when it comes to clinical practice
  6. Skills and knowledge that are always kept up to date

Many surveys have been conducted around the world to answer this question, including Singapore. In 2014, the psychiatric department of the School of Medicine at Konkuk University, South Korea also carried out a study about the essential traits that make up the hallmarks of a competent psychiatrist. The research team based their survey on one Singapore that was created also to assess the qualities that make a good psychiatrist in Singapore and Asia.

The Study

South Korea has before prescribed the minimum educational qualifications of a psychiatrist but is yet to document the qualities that this medical professional should adhere to during his or her professional tenure. Very few countries in Asia (including Korea) have undertaken such a study in the past.

Findings from the study will be used to facilitate the improvement of training programs for future psychiatrists in Korea. A questionnaire comprising some 40 questions were classified into four distinct categories:

  • Professional – The quality of the clinical practice including interpersonal skills when working with patients.
  • Relationship – The quality of working relationships with other professional (colleagues etc.).
  • Academic Executive – The quality of academic pursuit including research and further studies.
  • Personal Values – The personal qualities of the psychiatrist like honesty and integrity.

Participants comprise of both healthcare professionals as well as patients. Patient participants were picked from outpatient populaces who continued to seek treatment in 10 psychiatric hospitals spread across Korea. Their ages ranged from 18-65 years.

Healthcare professionals included junior resident psychiatrists practicing in hospitals as well as established professionals. A survey was emailed to 230 psychiatrists who were selected at random that included faculty members, practicing professionals, and trainees. Their age bracket was the same as that of the patient participants.

The participants in the survey were required to accord a rank to the 40 questions and they ranked “professional’ as the most vital quality and ‘academic executive’ as the least important.

The Results

Both groups ranked the categories in the following order:

  1. Professional
  2. Personal Values
  3. Relationship
  4. Academic Executive


From this survey, it is quite telling that both patients and professionals in South Korea both hold the same view that a quality psychiatrist in Korea is an individual who holds clinical professionalism to the highest standards and also believes in a two-way communication with the patient. Not only will he or she communicate clearly but also listens to what the patient has to say with care. A good psychiatrist will also uphold confidentiality in dealings and also approach patients with an understanding and compassionate attitude.

Written by Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source: J H Kim, P C Tor, J King and J S Seo. A Korean Survey on Qualities and Definition of a Good Psychiatrist, J Korean Med Sci 2015. 3 December 2014