Prescription Privileges for Psychologists: An Intro to “Pro” Arguments

This is the second entry in a series on the implications of psychologists pursuing prescription privileges. What those implications are exactly, is far from clear ā€” they ought to be examined very closely. Others in the series include:

Preamble to a thorny issue.
Before launching into the positive side to psychologists gaining prescriptive privileges, I would like to tip my hat, once again, to John Norcross, Ph.D. He makes exceedingly level-headed arguments. He knows his stuff. In making his argument for prescription privileges for psychologists (RxP), he does one thing that I have not seen anyone else do — he outlines the weaker of the “pro” arguments that only confuse issues further.

“Could” does not equal “should.”
Norcross observes that “could” arguments ought not be treated as “should” arguments. The logic: We could do that, so we should do it. Of course, this is silly — a version “monkey see, monkey do.” Norcross has the confidence in his real arguments to toss the silly ones aside.

The weak arguments:

    Psychologist competence: With additional training, we will be able to safely and effectively prescribe psychoactive medications and therefore we should prescribe.Psychologist affluence: Psychologists in the United States are losing money, patients, and positions due to managed care, which favors subdoctoral-level providers and medications. Prescription privileges will reclaim some of our losses.

    Non-physician precedents: Numerous non-physician health care professionals have acquired prescription privileges in recent years and so can we.

    Organizational support: The American Psychological Association, in a rare demonstration of convergence between the scientist and practitioner factions, is wholeheartedly supporting prescription privileges.

    Practitioner preference: The robust majority of practicing psychologists, graduate students, and predoctoral interns now support prescription privileges so we should pursue and obtain them.

I was particularly relieved and amused to see what Dr. Norcross had to say about the first argument:

But why we should acquire privileges is not addressed by the finding that we can do it. Psychologists with additional training, I submit, could safely and effectively extract teeth, construct skyscrapers, harvest green beans, remove appendices, draft legal briefs, and perform all sorts of complicated professional activities. But that misses the point of why we should acquire prescription privileges.

Next post, finally, the substantial arguments for RxP.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.

This is one entry in a series on the implications of psychologists pursuing prescription privileges. Other articles in the series include:


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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

3 thoughts on “Prescription Privileges for Psychologists: An Intro to “Pro” Arguments”

  1. It reminds me of the joke going around my writing program. Doctor comes up to a writer and says, “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book.” Writer looks at him and says, “you know, I’ve always wanted to perform a surgery.”

    Thanks for covering this issue. It’s a loaded one, to be sure.


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