What is a medical psychologist?

Glad you asked!  Louisiana is one of a few states at the forefront of mental health treatment who allow appropriately trained psychologists to prescribe psychotropic medication.  To be appropriately trained to prescribe medication, a psychologist in Louisiana must:

  1. Be licensed as a psychologist: This requires a 4-year undergraduate degree; a 5 yr. (or longer) Ph.D. that includes a 1-year internship, practicum training and a dissertation; a 1-year postdoctoral position providing clinical services and the passage of written and oral examinations.

  2. Have earned a postdoctoral master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology that meets certain requirements by statute. 

  3. Have passed a written examination and other requirements as determined by statute.

 

This means that I am trained as a psychologist, first and foremost, and I view the use of medication as ONE of my tools.  It is not my only tool, and quite often, not my first choice. Not every patient needs medication to improve his or her mental health, although it does help many patients greatly. Additionally, a few patients only need medication. We will work together to determine the best plan for you.

 

What is a medical psychologist NOT?

 A medical psychologist is not a medical doctor. My training is fundamentally in psychology and counseling. After being licensed for some time, I received additional training to learn about psychotropic medication as it related to my patients, and then decided to become licensed to prescribe it.  I did not attend medical school. I do not prescribe pain medication. I do not treat medical problems that are outside of my competence; although I will be happy to refer you to your primary care doctor for further evaluation or treatment for those.

 

Why do I need a primary care physician for you to manage my medication?

Louisiana law requires that I consult with your primary care physician before prescribing a new medication or making medication changes. I strongly suggest that before coming in for medication management, you tell your primary care doctor what you intend to do and make sure that he or she is able and willing to coordinate care with me.  By law, your primary care provider MUST be a licensed medical doctor for me to collaborate with them; I cannot solely consult with a nurse practitioner or PA.

 

Will I leave my appointment with a prescription?

It depends. I can call in a prescription immediately if we are refilling a prescription that I have already prescribed, or if I can get in touch with your primary care doctor to consult regarding a new medication or increasing a medication. However, sometimes, you and I may have to come up with a tentative plan and I will get in touch with the doctor later in the day. If this happens, I will call in your prescription to your pharmacy or call you if the doctor does not agree to our plan. 

 

You will likely not receive a prescription at your appointment if we decide to do genetic testing or psychological assessment. Genetic testing must be sent a laboratory and results are usually returned in 1 to 2 weeks; psychological assessment takes place in a later session and varies for time completion. You may feel frustrated by the length of the process, but my goal is to make sure that you are getting the most appropriate and effective treatment, and sometimes it takes time to determine that. 

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