Can a Psychologist Prescribe Medication – Overview
In most cases, psychologists cannot prescribe medications to their patients. However, recently, there has been a push in several states to grant psychologists the privilege to prescribe medications. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe certain medications.
Where Can Psychologists Prescribe Medication?
Psychologists can prescribe medication anywhere in the military and the Indian Health Service if certified and credentialed to practice in New Mexico or Louisiana. Besides this, psychologists can prescribe medications if they practice in Illinois, Idaho, and Iowa.
Professional psychologists first gained the privilege of prescribing medications in New Mexico in 2002 and Louisiana in 2004. In 2014, Louisiana became the third state in the United States to grant prescribing rights to psychologists with the appropriate training. In 2016, Iowa granted prescriptive powers to psychologists, and Idaho followed suit in 2017.
In such instances, psychologists need to undergo special training and be permitted to prescribe only select medicines helpful in treating mental health disorders.
What Training Do Psychologists Need to Prescribe Medication?
Different states have different sets of rules regarding the training a psychologist needs to undergo to prescribe medications to patients.
The training that psychologists need to undergo in different states to be able to prescribe medications to their patients:
In Louisiana, psychologists must complete a post-doctoral master’s degree in clinical psycho-pharmacology before passing a board-recognized national exam. They should also hold a certificate of responsibility from the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.
In New Mexico, psychologists must undergo a minimum of 450 hours of didactic training and 400 hours of supervised practice in psycho-pharmacology.
In Illinois, psychologists need to undergo special training in psycho-pharmacology, just like in the other states. In addition, psychologists are also required to complete a supervised clinical rotation of at least 14 months and cover a variety of settings, such as hospitals, prisons, and mental healthcare clinics.
In Iowa, psychologists must complete a post-doctoral master’s degree in clinical psycho-pharmacology. In addition, psychologists should also have sufficient and relevant clinical experience in assessment and pathophysiology.
In Idaho, psychologists must get a post-doctoral master’s degree in clinical psycho-pharmacology. Still, the state does not dictate a specific hourly limit required for additional training before granting prescription powers to eligible psychologists.
Why Should Psychologists Have the Power to Prescribe Medication?
People supporting psychologists having prescriptive rights include the National Alliance of Professional Psychology Providers and Division 55 of the American Psychological Association. These supporters give several reasons why psychologists should have the right to prescribe medications to patients.
According to studies, around 30% of primary care physicians handle cases of people with psychiatric conditions. Primary care physicians are allowed to prescribe psychiatric care medication to around 70% of patients suffering from mental health problems. This is even though primary care physicians have limited training and experience in dealing with mental illnesses.
Supporters suggest that more people would have better access to mental healthcare if a psychologist could also use other treatment strategies besides pharmacological interventions. In addition, the supporters also state that giving psychologists prescriptive powers can increase accessibility to mental healthcare and allow patients to receive faster treatment access.
It helps rural patients get psychological treatment more efficiently and decreases the overall wait time in many states that currently face a significant shortage of trained and certified psychologists. This effort can easily overcome the problem, and difficulty patients often face when accessing mental health care services on time.
Why Should Psychologists Not Have the Power to Prescribe Medication?
In contrast, several organizations are against psychologists getting prescriptive rights. These include the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This idea’s opponents state several reasons psychologists should have the power to prescribe medications.
Some of the major reasons the opponents cite against giving psychologists prescriptive power are insufficient training in medicine and pharmacology, the risk of side effects of medications, and the risk of overlooking medical disorders that may be mistaken for mental health disorders.
Besides this, the opponents also state that many patients who are prescribed psychotropic medications usually have one or more coexisting medical conditions and that physicians are better trained to determine if and when medication is needed.
As we have seen, only five out of fifty states in the US have granted psychologists the power to prescribe medications if they undergo the required training and education. However, other states are still on the fence regarding this topic but seem likely to consider allowing psychologists to prescribe medications to treat mental health disorders.