Antidepressants are an important part of healthcare for many people, but not every healthcare professional can prescribe them.
Mental health is slowly becoming a mainstream topic as more individuals discuss its importance in everyday life. While there’s still a stigma attached to it, more people are realizing that mental health directly affects overall health and can have significant consequences in a person’s life.
While some people may use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk therapy, others might need medications as well. For some people living with depression or post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), their bodies may not be capable of producing the correct levels of dopamine or other chemicals essential for mental health.
In this scenario, taking antidepressants might be critical for a mental health treatment plan. But, not all healthcare professionals are capable of prescribing them. This article will dive deeper into who can prescribe antidepressants and how to talk with your doctor about them.
Primary care providers (PCP)
A PCP can include an internist or family doctor. These medical professionals can write prescriptions, but they may still refer you to a psychiatrist if they feel your case is more complex. A PCP can also advise you of the correct type of antidepressant based on any existing medications you’re currently taking.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors specifically trained to treat your mental health. They can write you a prescription for antidepressants while also accounting for any other medications you’re currently taking. They may also participate in elements of talk therapy treatment.
A psychiatric nurse practitioner is a nurse who has undergone additional training specific to mental health. They often carry graduate-level degrees and are legally able to write prescriptions just like a psychiatrist for antidepressants.
A psychiatric pharmacist is a pharmacist who also specializes in mental health care. Depending on the state you live in and their practice, these individuals are legally allowed to write prescriptions including for antidepressants.
Family nurse practitioners
A family nurse practitioner will have an advanced degree in the sciences — usually a Master of Science (MS) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in nursing. These individuals provide general medical services similar to a PCP and can prescribe medications for mental health.
It’s usually advised for a family nurse practitioner to work with a mental health professional to create a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
A physician assistant is a state-licensed, nationally certified healthcare professional. They’re often trained to provide care as an alternate option to a PCP. These individuals can write prescriptions for antidepressants.
Can therapists prescribe antidepressants?
No. A therapist who lacks the accreditation of a primary care physician, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, psychiatric pharmacist, or physician assistant isn’t legally authorized to write prescriptions for antidepressants.
This includes therapists, counselors, and social workers. But, they can provide referrals to a psychiatrist or another healthcare professional who is authorized to write prescriptions.
Depending on your state, some psychologists have prescriptive authority. If this is the case, they’ll be able to prescribe antidepressants without an additional referral.
Also note that sometimes antidepressants can
Not everyone with depression requires medication to treat their condition. Many people can use tools such as CBT, interpersonal therapy, family therapy, and even problem-solving therapy to learn new ways of managing stressors that affect their mood.
Likewise, sometimes lifestyle changes such as eating a more nutritious diet, cutting out alcohol, exercising more, and getting enough sleep can have an overall effect on your depression. Other options like alternative treatments such as massage therapy or yoga, or even relaxation and meditation can help some people.
But if your depression doesn’t respond well to the above methods, or severely interferes with your quality of life, a doctor might recommend antidepressants. Keep in mind that medications can take time to work, and it’s not uncommon to have to wait 4–8 weeks to feel a noticeable change or to have to switch medications to feel the benefits of an antidepressant.
Even when you begin an antidepressant regimen, understand that sometimes you might find that other depressive symptoms such as insomnia, poor appetite, low energy, and even poor concentration will improve long before your mood does.
Still have questions? You can learn more about antidepressants in these articles:
Mental health still has a stigma attached to it, which is why it can be so hard for many people to open up to a physician or consider seeing a psychiatrist if they suspect that they’re depressed. Your first step is to be willing to have the conversation. And often, this doesn’t happen before a person is in crisis.
Know that your physician isn’t going to judge you for feeling depressed or overwhelmed by your emotions. Their sole purpose is to help you stay healthy — and that includes your mental health.
So, don’t feel like you’re being a burden or talking with the wrong person about this. If it’s easier, you can bring a close friend or write down your thoughts in advance so you can clearly discuss your concerns. This is especially true if you’re currently on medications and are concerned about possible interactions from taking an antidepressant.
Your mental health is very important, and depression can make everyday tasks feel impossible. You don’t need to suffer in silence or figure out how to fix this on your own. Mental health care providers are there to help in the same way a surgeon might fix a broken bone.
But, not all healthcare professionals are legally able to write prescriptions for antidepressants if you’re diagnosed with depression. A good place to start is by speaking with a primary care provider, who can either write you a prescription or refer you to a psychiatrist.