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Psychopharmacology and Mental Health

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Psychopharmacology and Mental Health

"During the course of a year, about 1 in 5 Americans experience a mental health disorder, and about 10% of the U.S. population use mental health services during that year" (King and Anderson, 2004). These mental health services include counseling as well as the occasional use of prescription medication. With the use of medications come a number of legal and ethical issues that must be identified. It is the duty of a counselor to be aware of any medications used by their clients as well as be able to acknowledge when there are cases where medication is necessary to provide the proper referrals. In some cases a relationship between the counselor and the prescribing professional may be the most beneficial for the client.

Legal and Ethical Limitations

As a counselor we cannot legally prescribe medication. This must be left to a properly trained professional such as a physician or psychiatrist. Along these legal boundaries also comes that a counselor cannot make recommendations to a client for prescription medications even though they may recognize the need. A counselor can refer a client to another professional who has the exclusive responsibility of prescribing medications if he/she sees fit.

It has been suggested that many counselors do not receive enough training is regards to psychopharmacology. This can present an ethical dilemma in that many clients may rely on their counselor to further explain the conditions that may have been diagnosed as well as further discuss the medications and their expected actions. A counselor always needs to know if changes in behavior are a result of medications or the counseling services they receive. Sudden new onsets of behaviors such as sexual dysfunction, insomnia, lack of appetite, or agitation that may arise for a client may also be a side effect of medications which a counselor may not recognize if not properly educated (King and Anderson, 2004 ). Some believe that counselors may be in a better position to notice these side effects than the prescribing physicians due to the time spent with the clients. It is not uncommon for a physician to see their patient only several times a year where as a counselor often sees the client on a weekly basis (King and Anderson, 2004).

Client Education

As previously stated, often times a counselor will be asked about certain medications for clarifications and more general information such as potential side effects and potential interactions. Should a counselor not have knowledge about certain medications they may need to research and self educate to be the most helpful to the client (Kaut, 2007). With the world of pharmacology and knowledge of the brain constantly evolving it is counselor's responsibility to "understand(s) prescription medication (or other psychoactive



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