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What is Psychopharmacology?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), psychopharmacology is a specialization that focuses on the scientific practice of using medication, biological concepts and behavioral theories for therapy. The APA also states that this field involves neuroscience, pharmacology, psychopathology, physical assessments, lab examinations, clinical pathophysiology and pharmacotherapuetics.

Psychopharmacological Practices

Most licensed psychologists agree that the controlled use of drugs to alleviate certain mental disorder symptoms is necessary. However, the Big Pharma industry has pushed hard to promote the use of medication for solving every type of mental disorder through psychoactive agents. As a result, antipsychotics have become equally ubiquitous as antidepressants, which are most widely prescribed medication today. This will always be an ongoing debate surrounding the excessive use of stimulants to treat attention-deficit problems in children and the side effects of antidepressants on teenagers. Psychopharmacological science goes far beyond simply prescribing pills. Psychiatric medications are an important part of contemporary psychotherapy, but they are an adjunctive treatment instead of a primary treatment method. The fear of dependence on psychiatric medications is actually a good thing because it forces everyone involved to focus on alternative therapeutic techniques.

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Psychopharmacological Dilemmas

There is a sublime and subtle psychology of psychopharmacological practices. There are ethical and psychological implications and consequences of prescribing and not prescribing pills. Psychiatrists often say that the act of regularly consuming medication creates a unique psychotherapy process. In the beginning, both the patient and psychiatrist will discuss basic questions regarding who and what is ultimately responsible for impulses, choices and attitudes. Psychiatrists may wonder to what degree brain chemistry and abnormal neurobiology affect behaviors. Many patients naturally resist taking medication and many psychiatrists naturally avoid prescribing it because they all feel one should be in self-control and manage their lives without it. Some patients feel that needing biochemical support is a weakness that produces only negative side effects, so some psychiatrists forcefully overcome this resistance to treatment by insisting on medication.

Psycho-pharmacologist

Those interested in psychopharmacological science may pursue a career as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. They provide care for clients, psychiatric medication monitoring and diagnostic assessments for a wide range of disorders. These RNs usually have three or more years of training and direct experience in diagnosing, treating and evaluating treatments and therapies. Psychopharmacological RNs provide medication assessments for clients of various ages in outpatient mental health settings under the direction of a licensed psychiatrist. These RNs must be licensed by the state and maintain the Certified Mental Health Nurse Practitioner credential. They should have the ability to regularly use a computer terminal for entering notes, outcomes, results, research and documentation. They must be skilled in case, time, crisis and organizational management. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners must maintain a thorough knowledge of the state legal guidelines, ethical standards and service definitions.

Anyone who wants to pursue a career in psychopharmacology may also choose to study clinical pharmacy. This is the science of providing patient care through optimizing the use of drugs to improve health and prevent diseases. A clinical pharmacy degree program will cover topics like drug interactions, adverse drug reactions, preventing medication errors, reviewing drug instructions and documenting professional services.

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