Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

For Psychologists, How Much Training Is Enough? (Foundation for Prescribing)

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

For Psychologists, How Much Training Is Enough? (Foundation for Prescribing)

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO - The main argument made by psychiatrists against granting prescriptive authority to psychologists is that psychologists lac the medical training needed to prescribe drugs safely and effectively.

So, how much training do psychologists need?

Ten psychopharmacology training programs for psychologists have sprung up in recent years across the United States, most of them modeled on 1996 guidelines by the American Psychological Association calling for 300 hours of didactic education and a 100-hour preceptorship.

While many who enroll in the programs hope one day to be able to prescribe, they also gain expertise that can greatly improve their practice today, Diane Zelman, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.

"We were often the first in our practice settings to recognize drug side effects or the need for a change in dosage, sometimes faster than our medical colleagues, who we relied on for diagnosis but who saw the patient less often," said Dr. Zelman, who graduated from and is a faculty member of a California psychopharmacology program.

The postgraduate programs generally exceed the American Psychological Association's recommendation of 300 hours of training, requiring, on average, more than 350 hours of didactic training plus an internship to earn a postdoctoral master's degree in psychopharmacology, Robert M. North, Ed.D., said in a separate session at the meeting.

A typical program includes about 75 hours in neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and neurochemistry; 60 hours in pathophysiology; 130 hours in pharmacology, chemical dependency, and chronic pain management; 45 hours of introduction to physical assessment and laboratory evaluation; and 40 hours of clinical pharmacotherapeutics, for a total of 350 hours, said Dr. North of Shelbyville, Tenn. …

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