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Can a child psychologist prescribe medication? 

It is painful to watch your young person struggle with their mental health and you likely want the best support possible. But which professionals should you see and what are their roles? What treatment options are available? These answers may differ depending on your child’s symptoms, but two broad categories of treatment include ‘talk therapy,’ which psychologists conduct, and medication, which medical professionals handle.  

Psychologists are trained to support people through conversations and building cognitive, emotional, and behavioural skills. Psychologists tend to have a biopsychosocial viewpoint, meaning they consider biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to a person’s symptoms.  

Whilst their title sounds similar, psychiatrists have significantly different training and skills to psychologists. Whilst psychiatrists may engage in some talk therapy, they are medical professionals, doctors who have specialised in mental health. Their style of working tends to be more focussed on biological factors and they are able to prescribe and manage medication use for mental health conditions. For children, child psychiatrists and paediatricians are likely to be the professionals to prescribe medications for mental health disorders. General practitioners can also provide some talk therapy and medication prescription at times depending on the situation.  

Medication use is a very personal decision which should be discussed with medical professionals and the individuals involved. Support for mental health difficulties can include therapy alone, medication alone, or a conjunction of the two. Let’s explore what a child psychologist does and how this may work in with medication use.  

Child psychologists can help your child build skills 

Whilst a child psychologist cannot prescribe medication, they can teach your child useful skills for managing symptoms. These skills can help your child manage symptoms in the long-term. Depending on the condition and client, the strategies learnt with a psychologist may work to ensure long-term recovery and stabilisation past the use of medication. 

Child psychologists can assist in adapting the environment and engaging a support system 

Pharmaceutical support can be useful in managing symptoms and may be the right choice for your child. While medication may assist at a biological level, psychologists can provide alternative support. Psychologists can train your child to understand and communicate their emotions, as well as challenge unhelpful thought patterns. Psychologists are also trained to provide behavioural support and can help your child learn new ways of being. Environmental changes may also be suggested (such as advice on how to limit distractions for individuals with ADHD). Psychologists can also train parents in how to support their young person, as well as assist children to seek help more effectively. Thus, while psychologists do not prescribe medication, they deliver alternative and useful support. 

Child psychologists can assist with diagnosis  

Child psychologists cannot diagnose conditions like ADHD on their own, but often form part of a team who gather information to work towards a diagnosis. Diagnoses clearly identity the type of symptoms a young person experiences, which is important if medication usage is to be considered. 

Child psychologists can work with your young person to reduce feelings of stigma about medication use  

Sometimes children and adolescents may feel uncomfortable about taking medication for their mental health. Whilst child psychiatrists and/or paediatricians tend to handle this, psychologists can also work with your young person to reduce any feelings of stigma about the treatment of their mental health condition.  

Child psychologists may help identify if medication support might be useful  

As discussed, a child psychologist cannot prescribe medication. Psychologists are trained in working with mental health conditions however and may thus be able to advise on the severity of your child’s difficulties and whether medication may be worth discussing with a medical professional. Some people prefer to try therapy as an initial step prior to medication, or as an alternative due to factors such as young age or side effects. For severe presentations or certain conditions medication may be most effective (or needed to improve baseline functioning so an individual can engage in psychological therapy). Psychologists may be able to flag when they think medication may be worth considering. There are many factors that go into considering medication use, and a medical professional is best suited to helping fully explore this option.   


It can be confusing figuring out what support to seek for your young person. Psychologists do not prescribe medication but play an important role in supporting young people to improve psychological, environmental, and social difficulties. Psychologists can communicate with medical professionals to supplement or act as an alternative to medications, so your child is best supported. If you believe your child would benefit from therapy and you would like to learn more, please call us on (07) 3857 0074.