Reviewing psychiatry is a great way to get inspired when you are starting to and brainstorming for your own personal statement. It gives you some idea of the kind of structure you are expected to follow and the information you need to provide. This is important because personal statements for can be especially challenging to draft. Not only do we typically find it difficult to talk about ourselves, but in a residency personal statement, you need to find a perfect balance between highlighting your strengths and not sounding overconfident.
Furthermore, most students understand how much weight the personal statement carries, whether you're navigating the or application, which adds an extra layer of anxiety. This essay is your only chance to speak to the residency directors directly and explain why you deserve a spot in their program in your own words before the residency interview. So, it is imperative that you take the time to write and polish it until it is compelling!
In this blog, we share five psychiatry residency personal statement examples and five proven strategies for writing a stronger personal statement to help you improve your chances of matching to the right program.
I didn’t know that I wanted to be a psychiatrist until I started seeing a psychiatrist myself. It wasn't one because I saw them doing something and immediately wanted to do the same thing for a living. Rather, they helped me learn to be more introspective, which helped me figure out what kind of doctor I wanted to be.
I come from a small family of overachievers who rarely stop and smell the roses. My mother is a social worker with 2 PhDs, my father owns a physiotherapy clinic, and my older brother was a professional athlete. Growing up around these hard-working people meant that I had no choice but to pick up the same habit. For as long as I can remember, every member of my family has always been busy. As a result, I always had to find a way to stay busy too. That's how I learned how to play three musical instruments, compete in two different sports, and lead a debate team while keeping up with my AP classes.
Despite this, my family was close-knit. We always spent holidays together, and once a week, we volunteered at a local homeless shelter. I would watch my dad talk to people and provide them with supplies or tips that they would then come back and tell him had worked wonders for their back pains. I would also watch my mother put a smile and hope in people's eyes with a short conversation. I knew that I wanted to do what they did. Help people in the same way, but I wasn't sure which career path would be best for me.
Everything changed when I was 19, and I lost my brother to an illness that too many people are secretly battling: depression. My brother committed suicide at the age of 28, we later discovered that he had been depressed for some time. I didn't know how to deal with my anger and grief, so I buried myself in work. As you can imagine, that didn't work for long, and I needed to speak with someone who could give me better coping mechanisms.
My psychiatrist helped me develop healthier work habits and coping mechanisms. He taught me how to be more psychologically minded and helped me realize that psychiatry combines the two aspects of my parents' professions that I love. As a psychiatrist, you get to use psychotherapy to help people in various ways and you also need to have a solid understanding of the human body and psychopharmaceuticals.
I was completing my undergraduate at the time, but my interest had been piqued. I started to volunteer in the psychiatric ward at the hospital, and not only did I learn a lot about treating the mentally ill with respect and ensuring that they have autonomy, but it solidified my desire to become a psychiatrist.
When I got to medical school, my interest grew. I would read the psychiatry textbooks in my spare time, diligently take notes, and excel at every exam. My curious nature would lead me to ask more questions in class. A conversation with one of my professors, Dr. John Doe, even inspired a research project on how depressive symptoms manifest differently in people of color, complicating the diagnosis process. We are currently working on the research project together, and hope to publish our findings soon.
During my clerkship, a young woman came into the emergency room complaining of shortness of breath. She claimed that she had asthma and we decided to run some tests. I was tasked with monitoring the patient and we started talking. As she opened up to me about her struggles with Asthma, I began suspecting that she was describing a panic attack instead. I brought it up to my resident and attending who then followed up with some additional tests.
As it turns out, the patient had been having panic attacks for most of her teenagers and was not asthmatic at all. The attending sat with her for almost two hours, explaining precisely what a panic attack is, what she can do when she has one, and how therapy can help her identify her triggers and deal with them.
I remember admiring the attending's patience and professionalism. Beyond that, I remember thinking about all the different ways in which our mental health affects our physical health and how we are just starting to understand those ways.
I hope to join the efforts of those who are helping the people who are already battling mental illness, those supporting the people who are suffering from it but don't know it, and those who are researching to help us understand more about brain chemistry and how our minds work.
I believe that my sense of curiosity, work ethic, passion for the field, and psychological mindedness will make me a good psychiatrist. Now, I hope that I get a chance to train and learn from some of the best psychiatrists in the county so that one day, I, too, can help someone overcome difficulties and maybe even inspire another young woman to follow in my footsteps.
Check out this infographic for a summary of the tips that we will go over later:
"Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." My high school counselor wrote this quote by Buddha on our whiteboard during my senior year and told us that, lucky for us, she was there to help us with the first part of our work. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking that I didn't need all that because I knew exactly what I wanted to be. I was going to be a neurosurgeon.
I knew I wanted to be a neurosurgeon since I watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy in which Dr. Sheperd had to figure out how to remove a tumor from someone's spine without paralyzing them. Of course, I now know that although very entertaining, Grey's Anatomy does not have a very accurate portrayal of surgery or medicine. But I remember thinking that it must be amazing to spend your days working on such complicated cases, thinking outside the box to come up with creative solutions to problems that were endangering people's lives.
I've always loved a good puzzle. It is the reason I enjoy things like sudoku, and all my favorite books revolve around solving mysteries. I simply enjoy that eureka moment, and as silly as it feels now, in high school, I was convinced that neurosurgeons got the best eureka moments.
My mind first started changing during a conversation with that same high school counselor who informed me that I would make a great psychologist or psychiatrist after asking me a few questions. I was baffled! I asked her why she thought so, and she told me that those fields seemed to align with everything I was telling her I wanted from my future career. Even though I didn’t believe her, I couldn’t help but look into it.
I knew that I wanted to become a doctor because I'd always been fascinated by how the human body, particularly the human brain, works. So, I was more interested in psychiatry than psychology. After doing some research on the internet, I reached out to a psychiatrist in my community and asked to shadow them for a few weeks. As I observed the doctor and later on worked with patients as a volunteer at the XYZ clinic in college, I began to place more value on other aspects of medical care. Specifically, patient interaction.
I remember one instance where the doctors were having difficulty with a patient. She was 16 years old, seemingly in good health, but she repeatedly showed up at the clinic complaining of migraines, asking for pain medication, and refusing to get examined properly. After a few visits, she was referred to the hospital for further testing, but she never went and simply kept coming back to ask for pain medication. Most of the doctors and staff had pegged her as an addict, but Dr. Diallo instructed me to talk to her and get her information. I took some extra time to talk to her every time she came in, usually documenting her symptoms, and making a bit of small talk. On what must've been the patient's fifth or sixth visit to the clinic that month, she finally opened up to me and explained that she wears glasses, but they are broken, and her family doesn't have the money to fix them or take her to an ophthalmologist. Once we knew what the issue was, we were able to help her get a new pair of glasses.
That was one of many interactions that helped me realize that talking to patients, especially listening to them, is one of the most important aspects of medicine. I wanted to choose a specialty that would allow me to spend time with patients, have that connection and help them with the root issues instead of just managing their symptoms.
It only took a few days on the psychiatry rotation during my clerkship to realize that it was the only specialty that would allow me to solve problems, find creative ways to help my patients, and interact with them constantly. So, as it turns out, my high school counselor, Mrs. Bloom, was not wrong after all.
Now that I have discovered my work, I am ready to give myself to it with all my heart.
Growing up, I seemed to be on the path to success. I was an honor roll student, in the top 10% of my class, an elected student body member, and I was representing my school on the varsity soccer team. I already knew that I wanted to become a doctor, and there was no stopping me.
However, I was under the false impression that the road to medical school would be easy. What I now realize is that I was accomplishing a lot without much conscious effort on my part. I was raised by parents who believed that hard work, academic excellence, and the pursuit of knowledge were always paramount. If my brother or I came home with a grade below A, my parents would act as if we had failed the assignment or exam. So, getting good grades became almost automatic to me.
I achieved great academic success, but I wasn't actively seeking knowledge or learning the true meaning of hard work at that stage in my life. I never really set any goals and worked towards them. I simply did what I felt would be just enough to make my parents happy.
I was never genuinely challenged until we relocated back to my parent's home country, Ghana, for a few years. While we had visited the country several times in the past, living there and going to school was a completely different experience. For the first time in my life, my performance was less than stellar, and I struggled to find my footing. Doing the bare minimum was no longer enough. It was when I found myself pulling all-nighters just to meet the graduation requirements that I knew that something had to change.
I eventually realized that the problem was that the amount of effort I was putting in had not changed, despite the more difficult coursework I had to deal with. So, when my parents came back to the US, I took a different path. I'd found a premedical school in ThatTown Barbados that offered a four-year curriculum specifically for premeds. So, I packed up my bags and flew halfway across the world, anxious but eager. I wanted to prove to myself that I could rise to the occasion. I was finally setting my own goals, coming up with plans to reach those goals, and putting in the work.
I was challenged anew in school, but I knew exactly what to do this time. I had spent the past two years learning to be more organized, how to study, and most importantly, how to face things head-on with tenacity and vigor. Now, I can confidently say that choosing to study medicine in ThatTown was the right decision for me. Within three years, I had resurrected my passion for medicine, and I was happier than I had ever been.
During my third year of school in ThatTown, we started a semester-long course on Psychiatric care, and I knew right away that it was the perfect specialty for me. My older brother is on the autism spectrum, but he never spoke to me about his experiences, and I had never thought much of it because, to me, he is just my annoying and lovable older brother. After that semester, I reached out and we had an honest conversation about what it's like to be neurodivergent in a society like ours.
It was almost like I was experiencing a second catharsis. I decided then and there that I would return to the US for medical school and become a psychiatrist. While studying in the US, I started to volunteer at a local psychiatric facility, where I interacted with patients with various conditions and learned about some of the intricacies of psychiatric care.
I remember one particular patient diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia who had gotten into the habit of pretending to take his medicine but spitting them out when the orderly looked away. I caught him doing this one day and advised my supervisor right away.
I was surprised when her solution was to schedule a therapy session with the young man, so I asked her why she was doing that. She explained that one of her duties as his doctor is always to treat the root issue, not the symptom. If she could find out why he wasn't taking his medication, she could either find a different drug combination or address whatever was bothering him. That interaction is one of many that solidified my desire to become a psychiatrist.
I believe that my ability to self-reflect, coupled with my work ethic and desire to learn, give me the potential to become a great psychiatrist. My journey has been somewhat unconventional, but I am thankful for it, as I believe it has prepared me for the demanding and rigorous nature of psychiatry residency. It has also allowed me to develop a relentless drive that pushes me to strive to be the best at everything I do. If given the opportunity, that is exactly what I intend to do in this residency program and later on in my career.
Have you started preparing for your residency interviews? Check out these residency interview questions:
The dynamic between the mind and brain was always a topic of conversation around the dinner table in our house while I was growing up. My father is a psychologist, and my mother is a neuropathologist, and as much as they tried not to bring their work home to us, it always found its way into our conversations. I am not sure if their discussions led to my fascination with the human mind or if I asked them so many questions about it because I was already interested in the subject, but I was hooked either way.
Even though I was a premedical student, no one was surprised when I decided to major in psychology instead of one of the natural sciences in college. I wanted to understand the mind and behavior better and hopefully get some answers to many of the questions that constantly plagued me. I wanted to know why two brains can have such completely different reactions in the face of the same external circumstances. I wanted to understand how and why our internal states transform our outer experiences.
My degree in psychology was starting to shed some light on the complexity of the human mind. I was learning about the psychopathologies of mental illness and the anatomical and biological basis of psychiatric disorders. The more answers I got, the more questions I seemed to have. My curiosity and affinity for my mother often led me to her lab. We would discuss what I was learning in school as I watched her dissect neurological tissue under a microscope. During one of those many conversations, she reminded me how little we actually know about the brain and the mind and how we have so few resources available to help those struggling with mental illness.
At the time, I was getting close to finishing my degree, and I had been working for a research facility conducting a clinical trial for a new anxiety medication. My mother's comment stuck with me, and it made me think about some of the experiences that the participants of the trial had been sharing with me. I remember one particular young woman in the trial who had explained to me that she did not know that she had anxiety. She always thought that everyone had headaches, stomach pain, and insomnia when they were stressed.
When I finally got to medical school, it was with the full intention of becoming a psychiatrist. My years of learning about psychology and working with patients who had been suffering in silence for so long had convinced me that I was on the right path. I believe that as psychiatrists, we have the ability to improve people's quality of life by not only helping them mentally but also alleviating physical pain.
During my internal medicine rotation in medical school, I was able to help a patient who came in presenting with intractable nausea and vomiting. She was about sixteen years old, and her medical workup was normal; she was admitted for observation because, although we couldn't find a cause, she had already thrown up twice in the space of two hours while being in the hospital. I spent some time speaking with her. She was timid at first, but she eventually opened to me and talked to me about a pretty difficult home situation that she was dealing with. My instincts told me that her problem might be more emotional than physical, so I discussed it with my resident. I was thrilled when I visited her a few days later on the psychiatric floor and found that she had finished all her food and had not thrown up once.
Psychiatry allows me to continue learning about the mind and the brain while helping alleviate others' suffering, and that is why it is the perfect specialty for me. I believe that I am a good fit for it because I am not only passionate about it, but I am curious, compassionate, and very willing to learn. I am confident that with training, I can become a great psychiatrist.
When they called my name on the day of my kindergarten graduation, I jumped out of my chair, ran to the microphone, and proudly proclaimed: "I am going to fix mummy's brain." I had a big smile on my face that slowly disappeared as no one clapped for me the way they had done when my classmates said what they were going to be in the future. It took a few very long seconds, but eventually, my mother started clapping slowly, and a few other people joined in.
I am not sure what I felt at that moment because I do not remember any of it, but whenever I watch that video, I want to cry in shame and clap for myself a little. I like knowing that I always knew what I wanted to do, but I wish I had known better than to say something like that on a stage in front of my entire neighborhood. My mother's battle with mental illness was not a secret, though. One of my earliest memories is of her being carried away by men in scrubs, kicking, and screaming while my older sister tried to distract me with a doll. She was a paranoid schizophrenic, and I watched her fight her mind for over twenty years before she decided to take her life.
My mother is the reason I first got curious about the brain and mental illness. As a child, I didn't understand it very well, but she repeatedly told me that she was just a little sick in the brain but that the doctors would fix it. As a teenager, I understood it a little better, and I spent a lot of time researching what it meant to be a schizophrenic. I remember being both fascinated and angry at the complex ways in which our own minds can cause us harm. As an adult in college, I understood that my mother was not the only person struggling with this illness and that many others are also struggling in ways that are very different but also very similar to hers, and I wanted to help.
Growing up, my sister always made sure that I understood how to treat my mother with respect and dignity, even when she was going through a difficult episode. I spent most of my high school years volunteering in a psychiatric care facility, and I learned similar values there too. One of the doctors I worked with often complimented me on talking to the residents and making them a part of every decision instead of just telling them what to do like many other volunteers assumed they were supposed to do.
I believe that my years caring for my mom and the residents of the XYZ facility helped me understand that the stigma surrounding mental illness often invites alienation, judgment, and other forms of gross misconduct. To be a good psychiatrist, you need to be more than just competent and knowledgeable in the discipline, but also empathetic and understanding of patients' daily struggles with their illness and society.
By the time my mother passed away, I was in medical school, and my desire to help her had grown into a love for the field of psychiatry. I especially like the fact that even though we do not fully understand all mental illnesses yet, and we don't have a cure for many of them - we are able to provide some patients with the tools they need to live full, healthy lives using both pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies.
I believe that my compassion, discipline, and passion for the field will allow me to strive in your residency program and eventually join the efforts of the many other psychiatrists who were able to help people like my mom live as long as she did.
1. How competitive is psychiatry residency?
While psychiatry programs are not among the most competitive residency specialties, they are becoming increasingly popular, so it is best to have a strong, compelling application if you want to match to a good program.
2. How important are personal statements?
Quite important. Your personal statement is your chance to tell the residency directors why you’ve decided to pursue your specialty and why you would be good at it in your own words. It also gives them a chance to evaluate your communication skills. So, make sure you take the time to write a strong and detailed personal statement.
3. How long should my psychiatry residency personal statement be?
Unless otherwise stated, your residency personal statement should have between 650 to 850 words.
4. How long does it take to write a psychiatry residency personal statement?
We recommend giving yourself at least six weeks to work on your statement. That is long enough for you to brainstorm, write, edit and polish your residency personal statement.
5. There is no prompt! What am I supposed to write about in my psychiatry residency personal statement?
After reading your statement, the residency program director should be convinced that you are not only interested in the psychiatry residency program, but that you are the right candidate for it. So, talk about why you are interested in the specialty, and what qualities make you a good fit for it
6. Is Psychiatry a good specialty for IMGs?
7. How do I make my psychiatry residency personal statement stand out?
You can make your statement stand out by using specific examples to back up any claims you make about yourself, starting it with something catchy like a quote or an anecdote, and letting your personality shine through. Make sure you plan ahead before you start writing and seek help when you need it