Can Therapists Prescribe Medicine? What to Know About Getting Help

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Therapy is a cornerstone for many who are navigating mental health challenges, offering a supportive space to understand and manage emotional struggles. However, when it comes to addressing these issues comprehensively, especially when medications might be needed, a common question arises: Can therapists prescribe medicine? Understanding the roles and boundaries of different mental health professionals is essential in seeking the most effective help. 

While therapists provide invaluable guidance through counseling, not all are qualified to prescribe medication. Typically, this responsibility falls to psychiatrists, who are medical doctors with specialized training in mental health. Yet, as the landscape of mental health care evolves, there are exceptions and specific scenarios where psychologists and other non-medical therapists might have prescribing rights, varying significantly by location and specific training. This blog will explore these nuances, helping you navigate the complex pathways to getting the right support for your mental health needs.  

What Is a Therapist? 

A therapist is a trained professional who helps individuals manage and overcome mental health issues, emotional challenges, and personal obstacles. Typically holding certifications in fields like psychology, social work, or counseling, therapists are equipped to provide talk therapy,  , and other therapeutic techniques. They do not usually have the authority to prescribe medications, which is a common point of confusion; only certain professionals like psychiatrists can do so. 

Therapists work with a wide range of clients, including individuals, couples, and groups, to address issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship problems, and life transitions. Through their sessions, they aim to offer a safe environment where clients can explore their feelings and behaviors, gain insights, and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Their approach to treatment can vary depending on their training and the specific needs of their clients, often integrating various therapeutic models to provide the most effective support. In understanding the roles within the mental health field, it’s crucial to recognize that while all therapists can offer support, not all can prescribe medication.  

Therapist, Counselor, Psychologist… What’s the Difference?   

The terms therapist, counselor, and psychologist often create confusion, yet they represent distinct roles within the field of mental health. Therapists and counselors generally focus on providing support through talking therapies, helping clients navigate emotional and psychological challenges. The term ‘therapist’ can encompass various types of professionals, including those specialized in marriage and family therapy, while ‘counselor’ often refers to those focused on specific issues like addiction or grief. 

Psychologists, on the other hand, have a higher degree of education, typically a doctoral degree, and are trained to perform psychological testing and research, in addition to therapy. While all three professionals aim to improve mental health, psychologists can offer a broader range of services, including assessments and diagnostics, which therapists and counselors usually do not provide. Each plays a unique role in the spectrum of mental health care, tailored to meet different needs.  

Which Mental Health Professionals Can Prescribe Medication? 

In the mental health treatment field, the ability to prescribe medication is generally restricted to psychiatrists, who are medical doctors with specialized training in mental health. Some clinical psychologists can also prescribe medications but only in a few U.S. states and under specific regulations, after completing additional training in psychopharmacology. Therapists and counselors, lacking medical degrees, do not have the authority to prescribe medications. Instead, they focus primarily on providing psychotherapy and other therapeutic interventions to promote personal growth and change.

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What Is Medication Management?

Medication management, also called medication therapy management, involves using certain medications under the guidance of a therapist to treat mental health disorders. This approach is particularly effective for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, which can lead someone to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Medications serve many purposes in treatment. Some stabilize brain chemistry and manage symptoms, while others reduce the risk of relapse.

Only a certified addiction and behavioral health clinician should prescribe and oversee the use of medication in treatment. While in recovery, a client’s clinical team will prescribe, administer, and manage medications to ensure clients receive the correct dosage. In some cases, medications are adjusted according to the team’s recommendations. This helps improve the medications’ functioning in the body and minimize the chances of negative side effects.

Mental health stigma contributes to widespread misinformation surrounding psychiatric medication management. As a result, a lot of people wonder how to manage ADHD, anxiety, or bipolar without medication. Unfortunately, research shows that, if left untreated, people struggling with these mental illnesses are far more likely to develop a substance use disorder later in life. Medication management in rehab can help people feel better about themselves and their ability to overcome their struggles.

Medication management is often used during dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders. But, how do medications assist with treatment?

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?  

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an integrated approach that combines pharmaceutical interventions with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders. This method is primarily aimed at creating a holistic treatment plan that addresses the physiological, psychological, and behavioral aspects of addiction. MAT is recognized for its effectiveness in detox, increasing patient survival, retaining people in treatment, and decreasing illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders. 

Conditions treated with MAT: 

  • Opioid addiction (e.g., heroin, prescription pain relievers) 
  • Alcohol dependence 
  • Tobacco addiction 


Commonly used medications in MAT: 

  • Methadone: Used primarily for opioid addiction, it reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms without the euphoria associated with the abused drug. 
  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex): Also targets opioid addiction, buprenorphine diminishes the effects of physical dependence to opioids, such as withdrawal symptoms and cravings. 
  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol): Used for both opioid addiction and alcohol dependence, naltrexone blocks opioid receptors in the brain, preventing the feeling of a high. 
  • Acamprosate (Campral): Specifically for alcohol dependence, it helps to restore the natural balance of neurotransmitters in the brain and reduce cravings. 


MAT’s effectiveness is highly dependent on the individual’s commitment to a comprehensive treatment plan that includes medical, psychological, and support services.  

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Medication-Assisted Treatment in Orange County  

In Orange County, numerous treatment centers offer Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) as a core component of their services for individuals struggling with substance use disorders. These facilities are equipped to provide a comprehensive approach that not only addresses the physical aspects of addiction through medication but also incorporates psychological support and counseling. This dual approach is crucial for effective recovery, aiming to reduce dependency symptoms while helping individuals build coping strategies and a supportive network. 

MAT programs in Orange County typically include FDA-approved medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, tailored to treat dependencies on opioids and alcohol. These centers often feature a team of specialists, including doctors, nurses, and therapists, who work collaboratively to create personalized treatment plans. This integrated treatment model is designed to support sustained recovery, reduce relapse rates, and ultimately guide individuals toward a stable, drug-free life. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment at South Coast  

At South Coast Behavioral Health, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a pivotal component of our comprehensive treatment strategy, employed across our various locations. SCBH adopts a person-centered approach, recognizing that each individual’s journey towards recovery is unique. Our MAT programs are designed to support this philosophy by integrating personalized medication protocols with extensive behavioral therapies. 

At SCBH, we begin with a thorough assessment to understand the specific needs and circumstances of each client. This assessment helps our team of healthcare professionals determine the most effective medication and counseling strategies. Our MAT programs  provide FDA-approved medications to effectively manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and support overall recovery. 

Our treatment doesn’t stop at medication. At SCBH, we believe in treating the whole person, which is why our MAT is always combined with a range of supportive therapies. These include individual counseling, group therapy, and family support sessions, all aimed at addressing the psychological and social factors contributing to substance dependence. By providing a well-rounded treatment plan, SCBH ensures that individuals not only recover but also acquire the skills and support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety. 

If you or someone you love is seeking help for mental health challenges, don’t hesitate to contact SCBH today. Our dedicated support staff is here to help you every step of the way.  

Can Therapists Prescribe Medicine? What to Know About Getting Help

Pierce Willans
Kelly McIntyre
Medically Reviewed by Kelly McIntyre, MS, LMFT
Read More About addiction Treatment & Recovery
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