Originally created 01/11/00

Urges prescription-writing psychologists



A proposal in the Georgia Legislature would give prescription-writing authority to specially-trained, licensed psychologists. The major reason psychologists are seeking additional training and authority to prescribe is to provide quality care for their patients. This will avoid the usual necessity of having the patient see two professionals if they are on medication. Treatment would be more integrated and wholistic. Prescription privileges for psychologists would result in significant cost savings and stop the inconvenient and, at times, painful necessity of telling one's story again.

As it is now, non-psychiatrist physicians write 80 percent of all psychoactive prescriptions. They have had little or no training in mental illnesses or psychopharmacology. Patient compliance is often poor, and side effects may be inadequately monitored since appointments are often infrequent -- at times months apart. Generally speaking, psychologists see their patients more often (sometimes 2 or 3 times a week) and can monitor symptoms and changes in the patient's condition.

Licensed psychologists are doctors who have participated in seven years of education and experience in subject matter relevant to diagnosing and treating mental illness -- followed by two years of residency and supervised experience. A statewide sample of 500 registered voters was asked in September if competently trained psychologists should be allowed to prescribe; 54 percent answered in the affirmative. Psychologists are authorized to admit and discharge in Georgia hospitals. In certain settings 64 percent of psychologists are already consulting on medication dosages, toxicity and side effects.

This authority is not for all psychologists! Under the proposal in the legislature, psychologists would have to go back to school for 360 hours of training in psychopharmacology and brain function, the latest research and understandings. This takes about three years and is five to 10 times more in the area of psychopharmacology than any other health professional.

In addition the law calls for supervision for a year and therein seeing over 100 patients before being ready for clinical independent practice. Even then the law requires consultation (at least in the form of communication to inform the patient's physician what the psychologists is prescribing). ...

Jeffrey M. Brandsma, Ph.D., Augusta