Master of Science Program in Clinical Psychopharmacology

Program Curriculum

The program consists of a series of 10 courses specifically designed and developed for psychologists seeking to expand their knowledge of psychopharmacology. A sequence of core courses provides the basic science foundation and knowledge base in pathophysiology, neuroscience, and pharmacology for clinical applications. A professional issues course addresses the legal and ethical considerations and related standard of care topics. The didactic program concludes with a series of treatment courses addressing specific categories of mental disorder and the related psychopharmacological issues. These courses provide psychologists with important knowledge of the treatment of mental disorders with medication. A Clinical Practicum Elective is available for those practitioners who desire to practice the management of psychopharmacotherapy in a supervised clinical experience.

In addition to required readings and videotapes lectures, students participate in online discussions and weekly chats. These chats represent the only weekly requirement that is scheduled; all other activities occur at the convenience of the participant.

The didactic portion of the program is divided into five 15-week semesters. Two courses are completed each semester. Courses run sequentially to allow participants to focus on one topic at a time.

Course Credit

APA Approved Sponsor of CE

Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Psychology is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Psychology maintains responsibility for this program and its contents.

The M.S. Program in Clinical Psychopharmacology is sponsored by the Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Psychology. Upon successful course completion, each course in the program is approved for 45 Continuing Professional Education Credits for Psychologists. In addition, passing the course results in 3 graduate credits towards the Postdoctoral Master of Science in Clinical Psychopharmacology, a 30-credit master's degree.

Courses 1 & 2: PSYC7910/PSYC7915 Biological Foundations of Psychopharmacological Practice I and II

(7.5 weeks each)

These courses present an integrated approach to the study of primary body systems (respiratory, cardiovascular, renal, hematologic/immunologic, gastrointestinal, endocrine, reproductive, musculoskeletal, and dermatologic) that correlates fundamental knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology of a specific body system with the clinical applications (health assessment, physical examination, laboratory assessment) pertaining to that system. Exploration of clinical medicine concepts will utilize a problem-solving approach. The goals of these two courses are to enhance the student’s recognition of signs and symptoms of medical conditions requiring collaboration with and referral to other health professionals and to provide knowledge about the psychological, biological and medical correlates of disease. Medical sequelae of psychotropic agents and familiarity with standard medical treatment of common disease states are addressed. Each course is approved for 45 CE Credits plus 3 academic credits.

Course 3: PSYC7920 Neuroscience

(7.5 weeks)

This course focuses on the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system, beginning at the cellular level. Knowledge of principles of neurochemistry, neuroendocrinology, and neuropathology will serve as a foundation for the understanding of neurotransmitter systems and their role in the etiology and treatment of mental disorders. Approved for 45 CE Credits plus 3 academic credits.

Course 4: PSYC7925 Neuropharmacology

(7.5 weeks)

This course introduces the knowledge base pertaining to pharmacology and psychopharmacology. It includes continued study of neurotransmitter systems and other factors in the psychopharmacological treatment of mental disorders, as well as an introduction to classes of psychotropic medications. Approved for 45 CE Credits plus 3 academic credits.

Course 5: PSYC7930 Clinical Pharmacology

(7.5 weeks)

This course presents major classes of drugs (excluding psychotropics) and their uses in clinical settings. It includes an examination of the social, cultural, and behavioral aspects of prescribing medications. Approved for 45 CE Credits plus 3 academic credits.

Course 6: PSYC7935 Professional Issues & Practice Management

(7.5 weeks)

This course reviews issues in prescribing from the perspective of a professional healthcare provider. Legal and ethical issues, as well as standards of care ranging from informed consent to documentation, are addressed. Interprofessional relationships and aspects of collaborative practice, as well as practice enhancement strategies such as computer-based aids, will provide learners with a solid foundation for the continued integration of psychopharmacology into their practices. Approved for 45 CE Credits plus 3 academic credits.

Courses 7-10: Treatment Issues in Psychopharmacology:

PSYC7940 Affective Disorders

PSYC7945 Psychotic Disorders

PSYC7950 Anxiety Disorders

PSYC7955 Other Disorders

(7.5 weeks each)

This treatment-focused series of sessions provides students with access to virtual clinical experiences through didactic information and case studies addressing specific categories of mental disorders. Each case addresses the following: diagnosis/differential diagnosis; etiology/biological basis of disorder; psychopharmacological treatment options, including mechanism of action, side effects, adverse reactions, polypharmacy, drug interaction, and patient education. The integration of treatment strategies as well as the empirical basis for treatments is presented. Disorders covered will include the mood disorders, psychotic disorders, anxiety disorders, cognitive disorders, substance abuse and chemical dependency, chronic pain, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as well as others. Each course is approved for 45 CE Credits plus 3 academic credits.

The Qualifying Exam

To verify mastery of the material, there is an on-line qualifying exam offered upon completion of coursework. Students can opt to complete the Psychopharmacology Examination for Psychologists (PEP) instead. The latter option is particularly appropriate for individuals who are interested in pursuing prescriptive authority in the near future, but the in-house exam is free. We offer an optional face-to-face preparatory meeting to help you prepare for either exam, called the PEP Prep. Upon passing the Comprehensive Exam the student receives the degree Postdoctoral Master of Science in Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Clinical Lab/PEP Prep

Once a year, we offer an optional training experience intended for students who have recently completed the program. Called the Clinical Lab/PEP Prep, this usually takes place in Chicago in August. The Clinical Lab portion consists of five days of in-person clinical training. Topics addressed include physical exam, medical history taking, and interpretation of clinical labs. Completion of the Clinical Lab or a similar experience that the student develops in their local community is a requirement of the FDU Practicum. The Clinical Lab is followed by a two-day PEP Prep. Despite its name, the intention is to prepare the student either for the APA Psychopharmacology Examination for Psychologists or for our in-house qualifying exam. Students can sign up for either the Clinical Lab or PEP Prep or both. This experience is only eligible for CE credit, not for academic credit.

PSYC7960 Clinical Practicum Elective

Practitioners who successfully complete the 10 didactic courses will be eligible to enroll in the Clinical Practicum. This is part of the supervised clinical experience described in the APA Recommended Postdoctoral Education and Training Program in Psychopharmacology for Prescriptive Authority. Each participant in the practicum will identify, arrange with, and recommend a clinical supervising preceptor (M.D. or D.O.) to be approved by Fairleigh Dickinson University. This experience may be arranged within the student's local community. The Director of the program will assist in the identification of an appropriate preceptor if needed, but cannot guarantee a placement.

We have developed a lengthy set of guidelines for the conduct of the practicum, but if you are pursuing prescriptive authority in a state that sets its own guidelines for completion of the practicum, those guidelines will take over precedence over ours. You do not need to complete the qualifying exam before beginning the practicum.