CNS Drugs

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 51–66 | Cite as

Prescription Privileges for Psychologists

A Comprehensive Review and Critical Analysis of Current Issues and Controversies
  • Kim L. Lavoie
  • Silvana Barone
Review Article


The debate over whether clinical psychologists should be granted the right to prescribe psychoactive medications has received considerable attention over the past 2 decades in North America and, more recently, in the UK. Proponents of granting prescription privileges to clinical psychologists argue that mental healthcare services are in crisis and that the mental health needs of society are not being met. They attribute this crisis primarily to the inappropriate prescribing practices of general practitioners and a persistent shortage of psychiatrists. It is believed that, as they would increase the scope of the practice of psychology, prescription privileges for psychologists would enhance mental health services by increasing public access to qualified professionals who are able to prescribe. The profession of psychology remains divided on the issue, and opponents have been equally outspoken in their arguments.

The purpose of the present article is to place the pursuit of prescription privileges for psychologists in context by discussing the historical antecedents and major forces driving the debate. The major arguments put forth for and against prescription privileges for psychologists are presented, followed by a critical analysis of the validity and coherence of those arguments. Through this analysis, the following question is addressed. Is there currently sufficient empirical support for the desirability, feasibility, safety and cost effectiveness of granting prescription privileges to psychologists?

Although proponents of granting prescription privileges to psychologists present several compelling arguments in favour of this practice, there remains a consistent lack of empirical evidence for the desirability, feasibility, safety and cost effectiveness of this proposal. More research is needed before we can conclude that prescription privileges for psychologists are a safe and logical solution to the problems facing the mental healthcare system.


Mental Health Professional American Psychological Association Clinical Psychologist Mental Healthcare Psychoactive Medication 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors acknowledge the support of their work by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Auger Research Foundation at Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Chest Medicine, Research CenterHôpital du Sacré-Coeur de MontrealMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM)MontrealCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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