Can a Therapist Prescribe Psychotropic Medication?

For some people, psychotropic medication may be a necessary component of their mental health treatment. However, in some cases medication and its side effects can cause serious harm to an individual. To ensure your safety, you should only take prescribed medication under the guidance of a qualified clinician. But what type of clinicians can prescribe medication?

There are many different types of mental health practitioners with varying degrees of academic training and medical responsibilities/privileges. These therapists help make sense of the details and explain which among them are permitted to prescribe psychotropic medication:

Therapist Norma Lee
Norma Lee, MA, MD, LMFT
: There are a variety of practitioners that work in mental/behavioral health. A psychiatrist is a physician (MD) who, after medical school, has completed additional training in psychiatry. An advanced practice or psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner (ARNP or PMHNP) is a nurse who has completed additional training in psychiatry. A psychologist is someone who has received a PhD in psychology, and may be called “Dr.” Psychologists are able to administer a variety of tests. Master’s level clinicians include social workers (LICSW, MSW), mental health counselors (LMHC), licensed professional counselors (LPC), and marriage and family therapists (LMFT).

All of the above can provide therapy but most psychiatrists do not. Psychiatrists and nurse practitioners are licensed to prescribe psychotropic medication in every state. With additional training, psychologists in New Mexico and Louisiana are also allowed to prescribe psychotropic medication. Often, a psychologist or a master’s level clinician will provide therapy to a person and work jointly with a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner who will prescribe and manage their medication. Not everyone in therapy needs medication. Sometimes, for very straightforward issues, diagnosis and medication management may be done by a person’s primary care physician.

Therapist Cynthia LubowCynthia W. Lubow, MS, MFT: There are several kinds of psychotherapists, such as clinical social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, and mental health counselors. Traditionally, the only psychotherapists who have been allowed to prescribe medication have been psychiatrists.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who, after medical school, specialize in treating mental health issues. They get post medical school training in psychotherapy, psychological theory, and psychotropic prescribing. After training and certification, psychiatrists may or may not do psychotherapy. Some just prescribe medication, some just do psychotherapy, and some do both.

Psychologists have been fighting for years to be able to prescribe as well, and New Mexico and Louisiana have granted specially trained psychologists that right. Also, some advanced psychiatric nurses have limited prescribing privileges.

Psychotherapists in private practice who are not permitted to prescribe medication often have a relationship with a psychiatrist they trust, so that they can refer someone to the psychiatrist for diagnosis, medication evaluation, and prescribing medication when needed. In that case, the person in treatment will see the psychiatrist much less frequently than their psychotherapist, who will provide the therapy.

Therapist John SovecJohn Sovec, LMFT: A therapist with just a master’s degree cannot prescribe psychotropic medication, as this is not within their scope of training or practice. Any doctor can prescribe medication, including your general MD, but it is best left to psychiatrists who have a medical degree and specialize in dispensing appropriate medication to people dealing with psychological issues.

In working closely with a reputable psychiatrist, you will be able to find the best match of medication for your needs, and a psychiatrist will be able to monitor your experience making sure that your body is reacting appropriately to the prescription.

A therapist can assist in the process of finding a psychiatrist who will be a good match for your needs, as well as provide a therapeutic environment in which to process the questions and feelings that arise from starting medication for a psychological issue. Many therapists work closely with psychiatrists in their community and are a valuable addition to your team of healthcare professionals.

For many people, starting medication is a big step and having the support of your therapist during this process can make it a safer, less-challenging experience.

© Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Therapy FAQs

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment

    April 4th, 2016 at 8:06 AM

    Do you work with doctors who can prescribe. My psychiatrist recently left, she prescribed, but I believe I need therapy also.

  • shirley

    April 11th, 2017 at 9:15 AM

    Looking. For dr that can help me with my prombles and give meds please get back to me have medicare tricare HELP 2zka

  • The Team

    April 11th, 2017 at 10:06 AM

    Dear Shirley,

    Thank you for your comment. If you would like to consult with a mental health professional, please feel free to return to our homepage,, and enter your zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area.

    Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. From this list you can click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. You are also welcome to call us for assistance finding a therapist. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time; our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext. 1.

    Kind regards,
    The Team

  • Liena

    April 19th, 2017 at 11:37 AM

    Im looking for a doctor who can percribe me a dog therapist for my bipolar disorder . I find calmness in myself having a dog so i bought one but my apartment manager wants $1000.00 pet deposit ?.

  • Paige

    May 12th, 2017 at 3:01 PM

    I hope that any therapist or psychologist that believes they can easily prescribe psychotropic medications after a weekend course, realizes what knowledge and skill goes into prescribing of ANY MEDICATION. If you decide to prescribe a mood stabilizer, are you aware of which ones can cause which side effects? What about serious complications like pancreatitis. What are the signs, symptoms, and risks of pancreatitis> What else is on the differential if someone has epigastric pain? What will you do if they develop such a serious complication? What if they have a minor complication? What will you do then? What about drug-drug interactions? Drug-gene interactions? Do you know how to read a UDS? WIll you even use UDS? If so, what are the metabolites of the drugs you have prescribed? Metabolites of illicit drugs? What are the indications and contraindications of all the drugs you may consider? Do you know what EPS is? What do you do about it? What else is on the differential when you suspect EPS? WHo is most likely to get EPS? As you can tell, I am opposed to non-medical clinicians practicing medicine. There is far more to it than whatever you learn in a few hours. This is why physicians attend medical school for 4 years and then residency. Even nurse practitioners have a few years of school beyond undergrad. If you are a patient, be very careful accepting medication advise from anyone other than an MD, NP, or PA.

  • susan

    May 24th, 2017 at 8:45 AM

    Is the term medicator used in the psychotherapist world in reference to a clinician who prescribes medications?

  • David

    November 7th, 2019 at 6:52 AM

    I am a prescribing psychologist since 2011,Pyschologists in NM,IA,Idaho,LA,if properly trained ,can get prescriptive authority.

  • Maria

    April 13th, 2021 at 9:55 AM

    My 14 yr old child’s social worker is insisting that my child receive 20mg of escitalopram (currently on 10mg and was already upped from 5mg 2mo ago because of the S.W. recommendation) My child has had mood improvement but the Social Worker isn’t teaching coping skills or talking with the psychiatrist. Is it legal or appropriate for the social worker to be aggressively demanding that my child be on a specific medicine dosage?

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.


* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.