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What Is Clinical Psychopharmacology?

Alliant International University
Alliant
Alliant International University
Published 07/20/2022
5 minutes read
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What Is Clinical Psychopharmacology?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average number of adults in the U.S. reporting symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder increased during the pandemic.1 With a growing need for proper mental health treatments and access to knowledgeable professionals, the field of clinical psychopharmacology may provide an answer. 

But what is clinical psychopharmacology? Put simply, clinical psychopharmacology is a professional psychology field that combines traditional psychology-based therapy practices with psychotropic medication to help treat patients suffering from mental disorders, including anxiety and depression. With a master’s degree in psychopharmacology, a licensed psychologist is able to incorporate medications into their patient’s mental health treatment. 

If a psychopharmacology career interests you, Keep reading to learn more about clinical psychopharmacology.

Understanding Psychopharmacology

A psychologist may want to pursue a master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology so they can offer their patients a broader range of care and treatment. But, this field is complex because it typically requires the understanding of basic neuroscience, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics. 

A clinical psychopharmacologist will also benefit from an understanding of:2

  • How different medications may affect one another
  • How an individual’s genes may affect medication usage and effectiveness
  • How the body and medications interact with each other
  • How long any medication will last once inside the body

But, clinical psychopharmacology goes beyond knowing which medications to prescribe for which mental disorder. It also breaks down the ethical and moral responsibility of prescribing psychotropic medications. 

Treating Mental Disorders

Clinical psychopharmacology studies how medications can be used to alter a patient’s mood, behavior, and even thoughts. A psychologist may choose to pursue this route to better treat mental and mood disorders and conditions such as:

  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Depressive Disorder
  • Bi-Polar Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorder
  • Substance Use Disorder
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

With a treatment plan that includes drug therapy, a patient may be able to better manage their symptoms on a day-by-day basis. However, because certain medications can alter behavior, mood, and thoughts, a significant amount of training and certification is important when practicing in this field. 

What Clinical Psychopharmacologists Do

The primary duties of a clinical psychopharmacologist can typically be broken down into three categories: 

  • Assessment – The psychopharmacologist will likely review a patient’s medical history, inquire about any symptoms, and perform any necessary medical exams or blood tests to better understand the patient’s present state. 
  • Consultation – They may then decide to consult with a health care team to determine the best course of action. This may include the patient’s care providers and any psychologists or social workers.
  • Prescription – After assessment and consultation, a clinical psychopharmacologist will choose the right medication based on their research to help the patient’s symptoms. 

Therefore, clinical psychopharmacologists may find it beneficial to stay updated on the latest research in order to make the most informed decisions. In fact, this job will likely demand that you constantly re-evaluate your methodologies and practices. However, this is often the best way to ensure your patient has an effective treatment plan. 

Becoming a Clinical Psychopharmacologist

So, what does it take to become a clinical psychopharmacologist? While requirements may vary depending on the state you live in, as well as other factors, certain requirements are consistent across the board.

For instance, the average prospective clinical psychopharmacologist can benefit from:3

  • Earning a bachelor’s degree in a psychology-related study.
  • Completing a master’s degree and/or a doctoral program in Clinical Psychopharmacology.
  • Meeting their state board’s guidelines and requirements to get their license.
  • Practicing for a certain amount of years as a psychologist.
  • Gaining certifications in their field that may increase their earning potential and employment opportunities.

 

This practice also typically requires you pass several exams over the course of your training. Plus, your license and any certifications you may gain may require you to renew or recertify every few years or so.

Helpful Skills

Psychologists and other physicians typically spend years studying clinical psychopharmacology so that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed at the job. All of the training, learning, and professional practicing you’ll go through can help you to develop and build upon your abilities. 

As a prospective clinical psychopharmacologist, you may also find it helpful to spend time studying and putting the following skills into practice: 

  • Math
  • Empathy
  • Science
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Active listening
  • Research

If you’re interested in becoming a psychologist and offering your patients a well-rounded treatment plan that includes medication, you’ll want to consider a degree program that can provide the resources and training you need to succeed. 

Pursuing a Path Toward Clinical Psychopharmacology 

Clinical psychopharmacology is a complex subject, but with personalized, hands-on training, pursuing a master’s degree in this field can be an interactive and immersive experience.  If this is a professional psychology field that interests you, consider looking into a clinical psychopharmacology program or other psychology graduate programs. 

At Alliant International University, we understand that working professionals need opportunities to advance their careers without giving up their current jobs. That’s why we offer our psychopharmacology program and still have access to our wealth of knowledge, mentors, and resources.

Visit our website today to learn more about our online masters in psychopharmacology degree program


Sources:

  1. Nirmita Panchal, Rabah Kamal, and Feb 2021. “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.” KFF, July 20, 2021. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-o…. Accessed: December 29, 2021.
  2. “What is Psychopharmacology.” ASCP American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology. https://ascpp.org/resources/information-for-patients/what-is-psychophar…. Accessed:  December 29, 2021.
  3. “How to Become a Psychopharmacologist & What They Do: Psydprograms 2020.” Psy.D. Programs.org, September 18, 2021. https://psydprograms.org/how-to-become-a-psychopharmacologist/. Accessed: December 29, 2021.

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