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Can a therapist prescribe medication? It depends on your situation.


Short Answer: Only a licensed psychiatrist can prescribe medication - but psychiatrists can also be therapists (though tend to be minimally trained in modalities, unless they specifically undergo more training.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Only a psychiatrist can prescribe psychotropic medication
  • Some psychiatrists offer talk therapy, but it’s typically recommended to see a dedicated therapist
  • No other type of therapist can prescribe medication

Therapy can be an extremely effective way to reduce the symptoms of a mental health condition without medication.

Of course, each patient is different. For some, therapy isn't quite enough to get them to a place of true peace and healing.

For these people, medication may be a great way to fill in the gaps an aid them in the healing process. Medication can also serve as a way to stave off symptoms between sessions.

Of course, medications - particularly those that affect the brain and mood - are often highly regulated. There are certain circumstances in which your therapist may, or may not, be able to prescribe them to you.

Let's take a look at therapist medication prescriptions and determine what kind of therapist can prescribe medication, and in what cases.

Therapist Prescription Resources on This Page:

What kind of therapist can prescribe medication?

When can a therapist prescribe medication?

How To Get Medication For Mental Health

Psychiatry in Brooklyn: Williamsburg Psychiatry Group

What kind of therapist can prescribe medication?

No therapist can prescribe medication - but a psychiatrist can. And your psychiatrist might also be your therapist. Let's break it down.

Types of Therapists

There are two main types of therapists:

  • Master's degree-level therapists, such as licensed professional counselors and licensed clinical social workers
  • Doctoral degree-level therapists, known as psychologists

There are also "therapists", deliberately made in quotations, which fall into to other categories:

  • Psychiatrists who provide psychotherapy - While they may provide therapy, they often do not possess the same level of training as a dedicated therapist. They are, however, medical doctors who can help you.
  • Fake therapists, who claim to use some pseudo-scientific methodology to change your life in grandiose ways. You should stay away from anyone claiming to be a therapist who does not have an actual degree in psychotherapy or psychology.

Of all of these kinds of therapists, there is only one who can prescribe medication: psychiatrists who also provide therapy.

Definition Template (5)

When can a therapist prescribe medication?

The only situation in which the person who is your therapist is also able to prescribe, or even recommend, medication to you is when you visit a psychiatrist who also happens to provide psychotherapy.

This is fairly rare. Almost always, your therapist will be (and, in most cases, should be) a dedicated master's- or doctoral-level therapist, such as an LPC, an LCSW, or a psychologist.

If they determine that you may need medication, they will refer you to a psychiatrist.

This is regulated by law: it's illegal for a therapist to prescribe you medication. And because their name won't be in any databases of legal prescribers, they also won't be able to prescribe you medication anyway.

Finally, on principle, it's very dangerous for anyone other than a psychiatrist to prescribe or give you medication. Only those with a doctoral background in psychological medication can safely issue prescriptions. Taking prescription medication that has not been legally prescribed to you can be extremely dangerous.

How To Get Medication For Mental Health

Because psychotropic medications are so heavily regulated, and because they can be very harmful if taken incorrectly, there are a few steps to securing medication for a mental health concern.

Step #1: Rule Out More Acute Physical Problems

First, if you have any physical symptoms, you should talk initially to a physician, - a "regular doctor," as people often call them.

Many mental health concerns manifest physically. For example, anxiety can manifest with hyperventilation, a pounding heart, shivering, or hives in severe cases.

However, all of those symptoms can also be signs of physical illnesses. Because physical problems can deteriorate and become dangerous very quickly, its usually recommended that you first speak with a physician before assuming your symptoms are the result of mental health.

They might find that you have low or high blood sugar or blood pressure, or that there is some other physical problem that, if not addressed, will only become worse.

Step #2: Visit Mental Health Professionals

Once you are cleared of physiological problems by a doctor, you should ideally start seeing a therapist. You can also try seeing a psychiatrist at this point, but they may recommend therapy first and will be happy to refer you.

Often, psychological concerns can be alleviated by evidence-based therapy like CBT or ACT. After a brief course of sessions, you may find that your symptoms have been reduced or eliminated without the need for medications.

This can be preferable for a lot of patients, since psychotropic medications often come with side effects. If you can have peace of mind and begin to heal the underlying issues that contribute to your mental health without the need for medication, that may be better.

Step #3: Visit a Psychiatrist

Of course, it's idealistic to say that everyone can be completely healed and in a happy place with therapy alone. During the course of therapy, your therapist will be taking notes and observing your progress.

If they do that, and notice that you may need some additional help, they will be happy to refer you to a psychiatrist, who will then be happy to work with you to find you the mental health medication you need.

It may sound like a lot of hoop-jumping, but if you've never addressed your mental health before, this is the only safe and legal way to get medications for it.

If you had a prescription for a psychotropic medication, but moved to a new location or lapsed in taking it, you may be able to skip the above steps and talk to a psychiatrist about getting a new prescription.

Psychiatry in Brooklyn: Williamsburg Psychiatry Group

If you're looking for the best psychiatrists in Brooklyn, stop here. Our team of dedicated psychiatrists prides itself on fostering and maintaining an unparalleled degree of knowledge of psychotropic medications, their uses, and how to best utilize them in service of our Brooklyn community.

For unmatched quality of care, Williamsburg Psychiatry Group is the place to go.

Give us a call, and our patient coordinator will match you with the right psychiatrist for you.

Book a Psychiatry Appointment

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