Psychology in Action
Psychologist prescriptive authority movement in Europe
By Elaine S. LeVine, PhD
The movement to allow psychologists with appropriate postdoctoral training to prescribe psychotropic medications for their patients is based on three heuristic propositions: 1) properly trained psychologists with prescriptive authority can increase access to care for many underserved populations; 2) the combination of psychotherapy plus psychotropic intervention, when appropriate, is more efficacious than either approach alone; and 3) one provider, skilled in psychodiagnostic and psychotherapeutic techniques, as well as psychopharmacology provides a practical and less expensive means of intervention for patients. Over a hundred psychologists in branches of the military and in New Mexico and Louisiana have been prescribing for over 10 years and there have been no complaints of prescribing malpractice by regulatory boards. Moreover, a body of case study evidence of prescribing psychologists' efficacy as consultants about medication and active prescribers is accruing (see LeVine, 2011; McGrath and Moore, 2010).
Presently, three programs have received designation from the American Psychological Association as having met the educational guidelines for training prescribing psychologists as adopted by the American Psychological Council in August, 2010. These programs are housed at Alliant University in California, Fairleigh Dickenson University in New Jersey and New Mexico State University in New Mexico. All of these programs have drawn students primarily from the United States, but because they employ distance education formats, they have also included psychologist/students from around the world.
The New Mexico State University Interdisciplinary Master‘s Degree in Psychopharmacology (offered in conjunction with the Southwest Institute for the Advancement of Psychotherapy) is unique in having provided classes to a cohort of Dutch psychologists. The nature of this program was described in an earlier issue of Psychology International. Thus far, 18 psychologists studied psychopharmacology through online coursework, live chats, and eight live modules that were presented in Amsterdam. The students' training culminated in a two week executive track practicum in New Mexico, in which the Dutch psychologists shadowed various prescribing psychologists throughout New Mexico and participated in an international forum on ethnic diversity issues from an international perspective, sponsored by the Counseling and Educational Psychology Department at New Mexico State University. Many of the Dutch psychologists obtaining this training are the core activists attempting to pass a prescriptive authority law for psychologists in the Netherlands. In addition, even before obtaining the authority to prescribe, the Dutch psychologists are using the skills in psychopharmacology as consultants in many venues. For example, one Dutch psychologist who works in a primary care setting is now making the recommendations about psychotropic medications within the clinic. Several Dutch graduates are now teaching courses on psychopharmacology.
New Mexico State University (the SIAP/NMSU), in conjunction with the Netherlands Institute of Psychology (NIP), is initiating a new iteration of classes to begin in September of 2012. Like the previous program, many of these classes will be taught online, and some will be offered live in Utrecht, Netherlands. We anticipate the program will be very effective and interesting, as this iteration will be able to draw on the skills of the Dutch psychologists already trained in psychopharmacology, as well as some medical personnel from the Netherlands who have become supportive of the movement. Because a central purpose of this program is to provide quality care with increased access to underserved populations throughout the world, a certain number of applicants for this iteration will be accepted from countries outside of the Netherlands.
The prescriptive authority movement has been driven by very lofty aspirations among psychologists to provide higher quality care and greater access to care for underserved populations. It is very exciting to witness the evolution of this movement from its core as a demonstration project in the U.S. Department of Defense twenty years ago, to its present international efforts. For more information on the program, please visit the New Mexico State University website; or contact Elaine LeVine or Huib van Dis.
LeVine, E., Wiggins, J., & Masse, E. (2011). Prescribing Psychologists in Private Practice: The Dream and the Reality of the Experiences of Prescribing Psychologists. Archives of Medical Psychology, 2 (1) pp. 1-14. Retrieved from amphome.org/archives/August2011.pdf
McGrath, R., & Moore, B. (Eds.). (2010). Pharmacotherapy for Psychologists: Prescribing and Collaborative Roles. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 105-133.