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Should Psychologists Be Able to Prescribe Medication?

biological psychology, clinical psychology, should psychologists be able to prescribe medication, abnormal psychology

Today’s clinical and abnormal psychology episode of The Psychology World Podcast is on Should Psychologists Be Allowed to Prescribe Drugs?

Personally, I think it is interesting because in recent months there has been a massive push towards psychologists to develop competencies to allow them to prescribe drugs. As I’ve already said I’m currently against the idea as this could reinforce the Biomedical model when psychology needs and is slowly moving towards the biopsychosocial model. There are other reasons as well.

However, in today’s episode we explore the pros and cons of this argument, and I want to learn more about it as well.

Background Information:

Psychologists being able to prescribe medications is not new. In fact, psychologists are able to give people medication in five states in the US. For example. Louisiana, New Mexico, Illinois, Iowa, and Idaho.

Additionally, this isn’t new because these privileges were given to psychologists in New Mexico in 2002 and in Louisiana in 2004. Showing that this idea of psychologists being able to prescribe medications is rather old.

Although, it must be noted that psychologists need to complete proper training and have a permit to use prescribe medication in the treatment of mental conditions.

What Training is Needed for Psychologists to Prescribe Medication:

The required training is very extensive because here are the requirements in different states.

In New Mexico, they require psychologists to complete 450 hours of didactic training as well as 400 hours of supervised practice in psychopharmacology.

In addition, in Louisiana, psychologists need to first complete a postdoctoral master's degree in clinical psychopharmacology. Then it will only after doing this degree can the psychologist prescribe medications.

For Iowa state, psychologists need to complete the extra degree. Like Louisiana but psychologists need to have clinical experience in pathophysiology (these are the physiological processes that occur with a disease or injury) and treatment.

Finally, in Illinois- psychologists still need to have specialised training in psychopharmacology. However, they need to complete a supervised clinical rotation that lasts for 14 months as well as it covers a wide range of settings. Such as mental health clinics, prisons and hospitals.

This is very similar to how the UK Clinical Psychology Doctorate works.

The Arguments For:

Moving onto the arguments for psychologists prescribing medication.

The first argument for this privilege is, is that it will put less strain on health care services. As a result, the original idea of this For argument was that some states in the US face a shortage of psychiatrists. But as this is The Psychology WORLD Podcast. I want to make it more global.

Meaning that it might be good for psychologists to be able to prescribe medication as it could allow doctors to be freed up and the NHS in the UK could be put under less strain. Because of instead of patients going to see doctors and GPs for their treatment. They can go to see a Prescribing Psychologist.

In turn, this could make more doctor visits available as some of the Doctor’s workload could be shifted.

Secondly, I have to admit that I’m not entirely convinced me this For argument but some people say that allowing psychologists to prescribe medication would increase access to psychological treatment.

Now, the article I was looking at doesn’t going into detail, so I’ll give it a shot.

So, this could be a great benefit to psychologists because people with mental health difficulties that don’t believe in ‘psycho-magic’ also known as psychotherapy. Probably avoid getting treated currently because of ‘psycho-magic’ is the only option to them. As well as it is taking too long to see psychiatrists.

Therefore, if psychologists are able to prescribe ‘proper treatment’ also known as medication and if mental health sufferers can get quicker access to this ‘proper treatment’ by going to a psychologist. Then these people will get the help they need and hopefully they will start to life better, more fulfilled lives.

Again, I have my problems with this idea because it reinforces the biomedical model and ignores formulation and the biopsychosocial model. But you get the idea.

Arguments Against:

I’ve already spoken about my reasons against prescribing in previous episodes, but here are two other negatives.

First, a lot of professions agree that simply doing another degree with psychopharmacology is not enough. Especially considering doctors and other medically trained people go to Medical School or university for at least 7 years. (that’s the UK degree length) Meaning this does call into question are psychologists trained enough to be able to deal with medical issues?

Personally, I doubt it.

It’s no difference to a psychiatrist trying to deal with a mental health problem exclusively using psychology and not psychiatry. As they’re mainly trained in psychiatry whereas psychologists have a better understanding of the mind and human behaviour. As this is, what psychologists have been trained in exclusively.

Again, both fields have their limitations.

This leads into the second Against Argument, what if a medical condition is overlooked and treated as a mental condition?

Now, I must emphasise that no profession, doctors or psychologists, get this right all the type. As sometimes psychologists think a medical condition is a mental condition and vice versa for doctors.

Additionally, sometimes a medical condition can be maintaining a mental condition.

So, this is not easy.

However, this Against Argument might be unfair, but it raises a good question.

With psychologists with prescribing Privileges not being as educated in medicine and medical conditions, how can psychologists ensure a medical condition isn’t overlooked?

In all fairest, how can doctors and medical professions ensure a mental condition isn’t overlooked?

Anyway, it’s a tough one.


Now, we’ve spoken a lot about the pros and cons of psychologists being allowed to prescribe medications as treatment. I mentioned my final thoughts in the podcast episode.

But I would love to hear your thoughts so you can email me tweet on me on twitter @scifiwhiteley and you can leave a comment below.

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode.

If you want to learn more about Abnormal Psychology, then please check out Abnormal psychology 2nd Edition.

Have a great day everyone!


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