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The Prescriptive authority for psychologists (RxP) movement is a political effort to give prescriptive authority to clinical psychologists, enabling them to prescribe psychotropic medications to treat mental and emotional disorders. Prior to RxP legislation and in states where it has not been passed, this role is played by psychiatrists, who possess a medical degree and thus the authority to prescribe medication. According to the American Psychological Association, the professional organization representing the interests of psychologists, the movement is a reaction to the growing public need for mental health services, particularly in less urbanized and therefore under-resourced areas where patients have little or no access to psychiatrists.[1]

In states where RxP legislation has been passed, psychologists who wish to be granted prescriptive authority must possess a doctoral level degree (PhD/PsyD) and a license to practice, and undergo post-doctoral education and training. The post-doctoral training may be completed with an on-line degree program free of patient interaction. The medications they may prescribe are limited to those indicated for mental and emotional health problems; the specific list of approved medications differs by state. The psychologist is usually required to collaborate with a physician on treatment.


In 1988, the U.S. Department of Defense approved a pilot project to train psychologists in issuing psychotropic medications "under certain circumstances". Guam became the first U.S. territory to approve RxP legislation in 1999. New Mexico became the first state to approve RxP legislation in 2002, and Louisiana followed in 2004. As of April 2007, 5 other states have introduced RxP bills that are under discussion but have yet to be approved.[1][2]

Supporting arguments

Template:Prose There are several core arguments put forth by RxP advocates, including the following:

  • Other non-physicians have prescription privileges, such as optometrists, nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, and pharmacists.[3]
  • The training model is supported by a complete lack of legal complaint after eight years regarding the practice of the initial ten psychologists trained by the U.S. Department of Defense.[3] Legal complaints differ from legal suits, as military personnel cannot sue for redress. [4]
  • Access to medication would be immediate as opposed to long waiting times that are sometimes necessary to see a qualified psychiatrist.[5]
  • It would not come at the expense of adequate training in the science of psychology, assessment, or psychotherapy because such education would be post-doctoral.[5]
  • It would address the fact that many lack access to psychiatrists (especially in rural areas).[6][7]
  • It would make a more distinct separation between doctoral and masters-level practitioners,[6] and between doctoral and post-doctoral level practitioners.[8]
  • It would allow the psychologist control of the entire treatment process, which would avoid the complications of interprofessional collaboration while also saving clients money.[6]
  • Adding competence to consult with general practitioners who need professional advice regarding psychotropic medications when a proper psychiatrist is unavailable.[9]
  • Psychopharmaceutical training allows for better client advocacy.[9]


Opponents argue that the required training programs are too short and that psychologists completing this training will not be competent to understand the effects, interactions, and possible adverse reactions of the drugs they prescribe. They argue that this may endanger patient safety.[10]

Additionally, critics express concern that, if RxP became the norm, the biomedical approach would begin to encroach on the traditional psychology curriculum and clinicians in training would receive less grounding in psychotherapeutic interventions and research.[11]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Murray, Bridget (October 2003). "A Brief History of RxP". APA Monitor. Retrieved 4/11/2007.
  2. Munsey, Christopher (June, 2006). "RxP legislation made historic progress in Hawaii". APA Monitor. Retrieved 4/11/2007.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ericson, Robert. (02/09/2002 ). Prescription Privilege Based on Proven Model. Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved July 28, 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Heiby, E., DeLeon, P., and Anderson, T. (2004). A Debate on Prescription Privileges for Psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 35(4), 336.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 NAPPP. (2006). NAPPP Sponsors Prescriptive Authority Legislation. Retrieved July 28, 2007.
  7. King, Craig. (2006). Prescriptive Authority for Psychologists Working in the Public Sector: Is it Needed? Public Service Psychology, 31(1), 2.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Holloway, Jennifer. (2004). Gaining prescriptive knowledge. Monitor on Psychology, 35(6), 22
  10. Barrett, Stephen (April, 2002). "Why Psychologists Should Not Be Licensed to Prescribe Psychiatric Drugs". Society for the Science of Clinical Psychology. Retrieved 4/11/2007.
  11. Soares, Christine (July, 2002). "Inner Turmoil: Prescription privileges make some psychologists anxious". Scientific American. Retrieved 4/11/2007.
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