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History of State Psychologists Association of New Mexico (SPA)
article by Mario Marquez, Ph.D., ABMP;
What are the training requirements to become a prescribing/medical psychologist?
The entry level degree to become a psychologist is a doctorate. Psychologists that provide health services are typically licensed clinical or counseling psychologists who successfully completed seven to nine years of graduate studies, effectively obtained years of pre-and post -doctoral clinical training and passed the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)—a national licensing exam. This rigorous training deems clinical or counseling psychologists as experts in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses.
A prescribing medical psychologist is an individual who has completed even further training by obtaining a post-doctoral master's degree in clinical psychopharmacology. The didactic portion of the training is usually completed in two years. However, the total post-doctoral training to become a prescribing medical psychologist is approximately five years. The didactic portion of the training encompasses: anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, neuroscience, neuropharmacology, clinical pharmacology, physical assessment, bio-ethics and bio-statistics, and clinical applications of psychopharmacology with specific psychopathological disorders. The Psychopharmacology Examination for Psychologists (PEP)—a national licensing exam, must be passed in order to obtain a state granted prescribing license. In order to practice in New Mexico, an applicant must also complete a set of physician supervised clinical hours divided into three phases. The first phase is comprise of an 80 hour clinical training in physical assessment; the second phase entails a minimum of 400 hour/100 patients closely supervised practicum; and the third phase is a two year long supervised conditional prescribing experience. Throughout the supervised experience, the applicant is formally evaluated by the physician supervisor. In order for a candidate to obtain an unrestricted license to prescribe psychotropic medications, the candidate must pass an evaluation by a committee headed by the Board of Psychologist Examiners. Based on New Mexico regulations, prescribing medical psychologist must practice collaboratively with primary care providers.
What does the State Psychologist Association New Mexico do?
The state of NM mandates a minimum of 60 continuing education (CE) hours every two years for prescribing medical psychologists. These hours also need to incorporate CE's in culture/diversity and ethics. Chaired by Dr. Caroline Williams, SPA is the premier provider of CE credits that is required by NM’s regulation for prescribing medical psychologists. SPA holds two training conferences per year highlighting up-to-date clinical and practice oriented information relevant to prescribing medical psychologists. Attendees come from multiple states and at various stages of their training.
BOARD of DIRECTORS
Dr. Renee Wilkins, President
Dr. Jonathan Leggett, Secretary
Dr. Jo Velasquez, Treasurer
Dr Christina Vento, Member at Large & Legislative Chair
Dr. Ernesto Santistevan, Member at Large
Dr. Caroline Williams, SPA Education Chair
In addition, SPA is the advocacy group for prescribing medical psychologists in NM. SPA members were the architects of the passage of the first state granted prescribing medical psychologist law 2002 led by fore-parents of the field in NM including Drs. Mario Marquez, Elaine Levine, and Thomas Thompson. Most recently, advocacy actions by SPA members (Dr. Christina Vento and others) pushed through regulations to allow prescribing psychologist to be reimbursed for E&M (physician) billing codes.
Medical Psychology is a postdoctoral specialty within applied psychology that integrates evidence-based psychological principles with medical science for the purpose of diagnosing and treating emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and psycho-somatic disorders. Pharmacologically trained medical psychologists can prescribe, in concert with psycho-biosocial interventions, psychotropic medications or advise patients and other professionals about the use of such medication.
Moore, B.A. and Muse, M. (2012), Medical Psychology: Definitions, Controversies, and New Directions. In Muse, M. and Moore, B.A. Handbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for Psychologists. PP 2-3.
Where can prescribing medical psychologists practice?
Military (civilian and enlisted)
Indian Health Services (IHS)
Prescribing Medical Psychologist can practice at any public health service facility governed by IHS as long as the psychologist holds a valid prescribing license from any U.S. state or territory and is successfully credentialed by the facility’s medical board.
Many additional states are at some level of advocacy to promote the practice of appropriately trained and qualified psychologists prescribing psychotropic medications due to the serious shortage of behavioral health prescribers in many parts of this country .
There is now even an international movement and educational program led by one our early NM pioneers Elaine Levine.