Prescribed psychiatric drugs

Guidance for psychological therapists to enable conversations with clients who are taking or withdrawing from prescribed psychiatric drugs.

This guidance was facilitated by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence (APPG for PDD) in 2019 by bringing together the main professional bodies representing psychological therapists in the UK, with key academics and professionals.

This guidance was funded and steered by UKCP, BACP and the British Psychological Society (BPS) and, in conjunction with the APPG for Prescribed Drug Dependence Secretariat (all members of the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry (CEP)), and the National Survivor User Network (NSUN).

It is endorsed by the main non-modality specific professional bodies, including the National Counselling Society (NCS), for use by their members and relevant training organisations

Guidance aims

The aims of the guidance are to:

  • Support therapists in deepening their knowledge and reflection on working with clients prescribed psychiatric drugs such as antidepressants and antipsychotics.
  • Summarise the main effects, adverse consequences and possible withdrawal reactions for each main class of psychiatric drug.
  • Invite therapists to familiarise themselves with core issues relating to the role of psychiatric drug use (and withdrawal) and the implications this has for clients in therapy.
  • Be relevant to therapists from a wide variety of theoretical models.
  • Provide information for therapists on key questions and concerns relevant to their therapeutic work with clients who are either taking or withdrawing from prescribed drugs in order to enable them to decide whether, and to what extent they will use it in their work.
  • Potentially reduce the impact of issues associated with taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs on clients.

Key issues and implications

Drugs have been the mainstay of psychiatric treatments since the 1950s. It is assumed that the major types of drug used in psychiatry work to reverse, or partially reverse, underlying disease progress in a ‘disease-centred’ model. This guidance finds little evidence to support this model of drug action.

Where psychiatric drugs produce helpful effects, they are best thought of as a temporary tool or coping mechanism that can be a precursor to psychological change

The guidance aims to demystify legal and ethical concerns that therapists may have. For example, it establishes the difference between giving medical information and giving medical advice and is clear about the ethical considerations involved. This is a deliberate attempt to broaden therapists’ perceptions of what lies within their competence by providing relevant evidence and information.

Access prescribed psychiatric drugs guidance

To access the guidance for psychological therapists working with clients who are taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs, please visit our joint project website.

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