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Health Forum Online    The Psychologist's Source for C.E. Credits Online

A Primer of Psychopharmacology for Clinicians

by Bill E. Beckwith, PhD 5 CE Credits

As medications are a central component of treatment of psychological problems, as well as physical conditions, it is essential for all health care providers, even those without prescription privileges,  to have a working understanding of the general principles of how drugs work. Further, understanding the benefits and side effects of medications can enhance the provider's effectiveness in working with patients -- particularly within a behavioral medicine context. This course presents an introduction to psychopharmacology and provides a general understanding of pharmacokinetics (time course) and pharmacodynamics (factors that determine the actual effects of drugs). The major drugs used to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, cognition, and psychosis are identified and the role these medications can play as an adjunct to therapy and within patients' overall healthcare are presented.


Continuing education for this online course is offered through the following approvals:


  • HealthForum is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. HealthForum maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • HealthForum (ACE Provider #1156) is approved as a provider for social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) www.aswb.org, through the Approved Continuing Education (ACE) Program. HealthForum maintains responsibility for the program. ASWB Approval Period: (6/20/2017 to 6/20/2020). Social workers should contact their regulatory board to determine course approval for continuing education credits. Social workers participating in this course will receive 5 Clinical continuing education clock hours.
  • HealthForumOnline, LLC, SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0355
  • HealthForum has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6216.  Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. HealthForum is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.


Course Sections/Outline:

  • Introduction
  • The Brain, the Autonomic Nervous System, and Neurotransmitters: A Brief Review
  • How Drugs Interact with the Body and Brain: Pharmacodynamics
  • Pharmacokinetics: Drugs and Time
  • Non-prescription Drugs: Three Common Means of Self-Medication
  • Drugs to Manage Mood Disorders
  • Drugs to Manage Psychosis
  • Drugs to Manage Neurological Disorders
  • Combining Psychopharmacology and Psychotherapy
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • Web-based Resources
  • References

Learning Objectives:

After completing this course, health professionals will be able to:
  • Define and differentiate the 4 elements of pharmacokinetics and the 4 pharmacodynamic factors of drug actions
  • Recognize 3 common means of self-medication, including alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
  • Identify the drug regimens that are routinely used alone or in tandem to assist in the management of anxiety/depressive symptoms in 3 common mood disorders, psychosis, and 2 neurologic conditions, along with their major side effects
  • Indicate 10 guiding principles to assist clients with making decisions about medication as part of their treatment regimen, adhering to recommended/selected regimens, and generating accurate outcome expectations and management of potential side effects — including when an initial referral about and/or further consultation pertaining to the use psychotropic medication is warranted