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Medication and Therapy

For many mental health conditions, clinicians frequently recommend the use of psychotropic medications—those that influence a person’s mental state, such as antidepressants—as a treatment option and a complement to talk therapy. A session with a therapist can be a starting point for discussing potential benefits or concerns related to taking medication, although in most cases, prescriptions are issued by medical professionals. While medication can provide symptom relief, it does not necessarily address underlying maladaptive behaviors, and is therefore considered by many clinicians and adjunct to treatment, rather than the primary mode of treatment itself.

Can a therapist prescribe medication?

While clinical psychologists in some U.S. states are authorized to prescribe psychotropic medications, prescriptions are usually written by medical professionals, including psychiatrists, general practitioners, and nurse practitioners.

What if my therapist thinks I could benefit from medication?

A therapist may refer a client to a prescribing professional, such as a psychiatrist, for a consultation. The therapist may also share with the prescriber recommendations, concerns, or other information regarding a client’s treatment, though decisions about prescribing medication are ultimately made by the client and the prescribing professional.

Will I need to see both a therapist and a psychiatrist?

Clients typically attend follow-up appointments with the prescribing physician, which are less frequent than sessions with the therapist and shorter in duration (an average medical check-in is 20 to 30 minutes). A client’s thoughts and feelings about taking medication are valid topics for discussion with a therapist.

Do I need a diagnosis in order to be prescribed medication?

Not necessarily. Psychotropic medications can be prescribed in the absence of formal psychiatric diagnoses. But both psychologists and psychiatrists regularly diagnose mental health conditions, and it is common for them to provide a diagnosis before medication is prescribed.

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