According to a 2017 research study published on Jama Network, about 40 million Americans are under at least one psychiatric medication, including sedatives, antidepressants, hypnotics, anxiolytics, and antipsychotics.
However, despite the high number of Americans needing mental health medication, many people do not know who can and can’t prescribe these meds. Such lack of information can hinder one’s access to effective treatment.
For those unsure about who to talk to about getting a prescription for psychiatric medication, the answers provided in this article will help set the record straight.
Mental Health Professionals Who Can Prescribe Medication
There are many mental health professionals who can help you achieve your recovery goals. Although most professionals can offer psychological assessment and therapy, not all can prescribe medication. Mental health professionals qualified to prescribe psychiatric medication include:
A psychiatrist is a licensed medical professional who has completed psychiatric training. Psychiatrists are qualified to diagnose mental health conditions, provide therapy, and prescribe medication. They specialize in studying, preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental, emotional, developmental, and behavioral issues.
Licensed psychiatrists diagnose mental health conditions and focus on addressing chemical imbalances in the brain. As such, they can assess a disorder’s physical and mental effects.
According to the National Alliance on mental Illness, one must earn a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) or Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree and complete a residency training program in psychiatry to become a psychiatrist.
Licensed psychiatrists, in states where they practice, may also be designated as board-certified psychiatrists by the Board of Neurology and Psychiatry.
Psychiatric Nurses Practitioners (APRNs)
Also known as psychiatric nurses, psychiatric nurse practitioners can offer assessment, diagnosis, and therapy for mental health conditions. These practitioners can also prescribe medication for mental health conditions in some states. The requirement and qualification for APRNs to prescribe medication vary by state, depending on the degree of supervision by a licensed psychiatrist.
To qualify as a psychiatric nurse, one must earn a masters or doctorate in nursing with a specialty in psychiatry. Other necessary credentials include but are not limited to the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and the Board Certification in psychiatric nursing (PMHNP) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) can also provide general medical services. However, this varies from state to state. Like a primary physician, an FNP can prescribe medication, but you might want to consider seeing someone more specialized in mental health care.
Family nurse practitioners usually work with mental health professionals to determine the patient’s best treatment plan. To qualify as an FNP, one must earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing or a Masters of Science (M.S). Depending on state laws, credentials for family nurse practitioners include a Family Nurse Practitioner Board Certificate (FNP-BC) and the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
Primary Care Physicians and Physician Assistants
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, primary care physicians can prescribe medication, but you might want to consider vising a specialized mental health professional. Primary care physicians need to work with mental health professionals to determine the best treatment plan for a patient.
The academic requirements for primary care physicians are either a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) or a Doctor of Medicine (M.D). Additionally, every physician must be licensed in the state where they practice.
Physician assistants, also known as physician associates, are mid-level health professionals. These healthcare providers have not undergone much training as physicians, but they are qualified enough to perform most duties, such as diagnosing a condition, planning treatment schedules, and prescribing medication.
To qualify as a physician associate, one must earn at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field and amass at least 1,000 hours of hands-on experience. They must also graduate from a physician assistant training program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam.
Can Therapists Prescribe Medication?
Therapists are masters-level healthcare professionals trained to evaluate an individual’s mental health and apply therapeutic techniques grounded in specific training programs. Depending on the treatment setting, these professions operate under many job titles, including counselors, therapists, or clinicians.
Therapists cannot prescribe or suggest mental health medication unless they have one or more of the abovementioned credentials.
When a therapist, counselor or social worker is certain that a client needs a medical prescription, they refer that client for evaluation by a mental health professional with the qualifications required to prescribe mental health medications.
Getting Medication from a Qualified Professional
Mental health is a critical element of a person’s overall health. Therefore, mental health issues must be treated with the gravity they deserve.
According to a 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most patients received psychiatric medication without undergoing a full evaluation by someone trained in treating mental health disorders.
Another 2013 research study published in Psychiatric Services revealed that about 58% of individuals prescribed psychiatric medication in 2009 did not have a psychiatric diagnosis.
Being prescribed medication without a formal mental health evaluation can be risky. In psychiatry, there are many symptom overlaps, and the same symptom can represent more than one mental health disorder, making diagnosis a tad tricky. Because of this, it is likely that the wrong medication is being prescribed when no evaluation is done before prescription.
Healthcare professionals trained and specialized in mental health will carry out a full evaluation and diagnosis before prescribing medication. This ensures that the patient gets the right medication, if medications are necessary.
Book an Appointment with a Qualified Professional
If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues and need help, you have come to the right place. At My Psychiatrist, our board-certified Psychiatrists and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are qualified to evaluate, diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication for a wide range of mental health conditions. To schedule an appointment or learn more about our services, click here or call (877) 548-8089.