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Psychiatrists vs. psychologists

Published: Saturday, June 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

To the Editor:

This is in response to the June 4 letter to the editor regarding the psychology prescribing bill (SB2187) that affects the vulnerable citizens of Illinois.

I am a board-certified psychiatrist. I have worked closely with physicians and psychologists for 15 years.

Psychiatrists learn about all medications, their uses and their side effects in four years of medical school. They then learn more about the proper diagnosis of psychiatric disease in their four-year residency after medical school.

They also learn more about the medications that are used: their risks, their benefits, and how they interact with each other and other medications a patient may be taking. This includes laboratory testing, interpretation and medical communication with other physicians.

Psychiatrists also are trained in psychotherapy. In my practice, I provide psychotherapy and medications, and only when each is needed.

Psychologists learn about behavioral disorders in their training. They do not get extensive education or experience in choosing psychiatric drugs. They get basically no training in the side effects of these medications, or their interaction with other medications. Psychologists are our valuable colleagues in the treatment of patients with psychiatric disease. But they are not trained to prescribe psychiatric medications, plain and simple.

If there is a shortage in psychiatric practitioners in Illinois, or any other state, let’s fix that. But asking professionals untrained in those medications to prescribe them is no fix at all. It’s a quick and dirty patch that will end up hurting, not helping, the patients involved.

Shalini Varma

Lake Villa

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