The Therapist’s Guide to Psychopharmacology

JoEllen Patterson, PhD;
A. Ari Albala, MD;
Margaret E. McCahil, MD;
Todd M. Edwards,PhD

Course Outline

Many therapists routinely make medication referrals or encounter new patients who are already taking psychotropic medications. Yet few receive training in how to collaborate actively with prescribing physicians, or how to help patients and their family members benefit optimally from medication treatment. This user-friendly volume integrates the perspectives of two psychiatrists and two family therapists to present the basic information about psychopharmacology that therapists need. Writing in an accessible style, the authors provide an authoritative, eminently practical guide to all aspects of effective collaborative care.

Ideal for readers without extensive background in neurobiology, the book begins with a concise overview of how the brain works and how it is affected by psychotropic drugs. Particular attention is given to what therapists need to know to communicate with physicians and to explain biopsychosocial concepts to patients. Next, chapters describe how medications are used in the treatment of frequently encountered disorders. Discussing the impact of medications on emotions, behavior, and relationships, the book spells out strategies for helping patients cope with side effects, safety concerns, worries about being stigmatized, and other real-world challenges. The authors also emphasize the important role that family members play in medication decision making and suggest ways to involve them in treatment. Offering a roadmap for navigating the complexities of sharing care with physicians, the book features case examples, sample referral letters, checklists, a glossary, and other indispensable tools.

This timely resource belongs on the desks of a broad range of mental health practitioners, including clinical psychologists, counselors, clinical social workers, and family therapists.

About Authors

JoEllen Patterson, PhD, is a Professor in the Marital and Family Therapy Program at the University of San Diego. She is also an Associate Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Besides receiving a Rotary International Scholarship to work at Cambridge University, Dr. Patterson has had two Fulbright Scholarships to work in Norway and New Zealand. She serves on the editorial board for Family Systems and Health and the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. This is her third book.

A. Ari Albala, MD, receive his medical education at the University of Chile and the University of Tel-Aviv, Israel, and completed a psychiatry residency and a research fellowship at the University of Michigan. He is currently Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, Executive Medial Director at Paradise Valley Hospital Behavioral Health Services, and Medical Director at Psychiatric Centers at San Diego. Dr. Albala has received numerous distinctions in his career as both an educator and practitioner, including a Teaching Excellence Award from the University of California, San Diego; an Education Award from the San Diego Psychiatric Society; and the status of distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

Margaret E. McCahill, MD, is a Health Sciences Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine. Dr. McCahill has practiced both family medicine and psychiatry in the U.S. Public Health Service/ Indian Health Service, at a U.S. Naval Hospital, as a university faculty member, and in a free clinic that serves the homeless. She is the Founding Director of the UCSD combined Family Medicine-Psychiatry Residency Training Program and the Medical Director of St. Vincent de Paul Village in San Diego, California. Dr. McCahill has received many teaching awards as a teacher of resident physicians for more than 20 years, and she also provides classroom instruction and practicum supervision for mental health care trainees in clinical social work, marital and family therapy, and clinical psychology.

Todd M. Edwards, PhD, is an Associate Professor and Director of the Marital and Family Therapy Program at the University of San Diego. He is also a Voluntary Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Dr. Edwards received his doctorate in marriage and family therapy from Virginia Tech and completed a medical family therapy internship in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Rochester.

Learning Objectives

  1. Explain the importance for therapists to have some understanding of how the brain works and how psychotropic medications affect it.
  2. Explain the function of neurotransmitters in the brain.
  3. Scientifically describe the ways psychotropic medicines operate in the brain.
  4. Define the term “metabolism” and explain how it works.
  5. Define the term “steady state” and explain what it means.
  6. Explain the risk factors for depression.
  7. Describe the psychiatric evaluation in the initial visit.
  8. Explain the most common reasons for discontinuing antidepressant medication.
  9. Explain what it possibly means when there is no response to the first antidepressant used.
  10. Describe the treatment protocol for mood disorders.
  11. Describe the benefits and risks of using lithium.
  12. Explain what psychotherapy technique is the preferred approach when treating anxiety disorders.
  13. Describe the long-term effects of use of benzodiazepines for the treatment of anxiety.
  14. Explain the standard medication treatment options for generalized anxiety disorder.
  15. Diagnose and describe schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.
  16. Explain the dopamine hypothesis.
  17. Define and explain dementia.
  18. Describe the role of the therapist in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
  19. Describe the signs and symptoms of physical withdrawal from alcohol.
  20. Explain the importance of the therapist having knowledge of all the medications the patient is taking.
  21. Explain how psychotherapists can help obese patients.
  22. Describe what a patient with borderline personality disorder may look like.
  23. Explain what is involved in a healthcare team.
  24. Explain the criteria for an adequate trial of a psychotropic medication.
  25. Describe the shift in psychiatry over the last 50 years.
  26. Explain the importance for psychotherapists and physicians to collaborate with their patients’ family members.

Course Contents

  • Part I: The Mind-Body Connection
    1. How the Brain Works
    2. How Psychotropic Drugs Work
  • Part II: Psychiatric Disorders and Their Treatment
    1. Mood Disorders
    2. Anxiety Disorders
    3. Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses
    4. Cognitive Disorders
    5. Alcoholism and Substance Abuse
    6. Special Populations and Situations
  • Part III: Creative Collaboration
    1. Focusing the Lens: The Referral Process and Medical Evaluation
    2. Sharing Care: Building Successful Collaborative Relationships
    3. Strengthening Bonds: Collaborating with the Family
  • Appendix A: How Drugs are Developed
  • Appendix B: Future Trends
  • Appendix C: Professional Outreach
  • Glossary
  • References

Customer Comments

“The emphasis of collaborative work was interesting.”

– J.T., Ph.D, CA