Prescription Privileges for Psychologists: Perceptions, Knowledge and Attitude Change of Oregon Psychologists

Project Description:

Over the past two decades, an important, and at times contentious, debate has emerged within the field about whether doctoral-level clinical psychologists should be granted the right to prescribe psychotropic medication after completing additional training in clinical psychopharmacology.  Since 1995, when the American Psychological Association (APA) formally endorsed the pursuit of prescriptive authority for psychologists, over half of all states have considered legislation.  However, only in the U.S. territory of Guam in 1999, New Mexico in 2002, and Louisiana in 2004 have licensed psychologists been granted prescriptive authority. 

Proponents in the state and national efforts to gain prescription privileges argue that mental health needs are currently not adequately met because most patients lack access to psychiatric care and/or most are prescribed psychotropic medications by general practitioners with no mental health training.  They argue that this is particularly problematic for mental health consumers living in rural areas.  Another argument proposed in favor of prescription privileges is that psychologists are already safely and effectively prescribing in the military and the 2 states that have passed legislation.  Thus, proponents see psychologists as being able to safely address access issues.  Opponents, on the other hand, question whether extending prescription privileges to psychologists will address these same problems arguing that psychologists are no more likely to practice in rural areas than are psychiatrists.  They also argue that psychologists have not adequately demonstrated that they can competently prescribe, raising concerns about public safety. 

Although a growing number of surveys have been recently conducted to assess professionals’ views regarding prescription privileges (e.g., Walters, 2001; Baird 2007) very few have assessed perceived knowledge regarding issues relevant to the debate (e.g., outcomes of legislative efforts, training models, current prescribing practices based on geographical location).  A major goal of the current study is to directly assess perceived knowledge and attitudes and to evaluate whether any of these views change with the presentation of material to educate about the issues (e.g., present data from NM, LA and Guam showing where prescribing psychologists are practicing).

For more information see conference handouts.  The manuscript was submitted for publication.