Psychiatric Pharmacy Involves Advanced Clinical Training

Pharmacy TimesMarch 2021
Volume 89
Issue 03
Pages: 64

Path to helping patients with mental health issues can include residency and board certification.

Psychiatric pharmacists specialize in caring for patients with mental health disorders and illnesses through medication therapy management and can also play an important role in opioid and substance use disorders treatment.1,2

This is especially important now because the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on mental health and wellness.3

According to results of a recent survey, 4 in 10 adults in the United
States reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic.3 The behavioral health workforce projections indicate a shortage of psychiatrists by 2030, further emphasizing the need for more psychiatric pharmacists.4 This career path opens the door to a variety of opportunities for pharmacists to provide comprehensive medication management and improve health outcomes for patients with neurologic and psychiatric disorders as part of an interdisciplinary team.5

Journey to a New Career

The number of pharmacy students interested in psychiatric pharmacy has increased 277% during the past 4 years, according to the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP).6

Pharmacy students interested in pursuing a career in this specialty
can take psychiatric clinical rotations and join the CPNP.6 Additionally,
the number of postgraduate year 2 (PGY2) residencies has increased
158% during the past 4 years.6 Residency program directors involved in hiring psychiatric pharmacists report that the top 5 things they look for
in candidates are a PGY2 psychiatric residency (67%), a board-certified psychiatric pharmacist (BCPP) credential (60%), clinical work experience (30%), postgraduate year 1 (PGY1) residency (28%), and teaching experience (18%).6 Residencies provide a variety of experiences that usually include research and teaching (see FIGURE).6 From 2016 to August 2020, PGY2 residency spots increased by 23%.6

“Psychiatric pharmacists play an essential role in improving outcomes for those living with psychiatric, neurologic, and substance use disorders,” CPNP Executive Director Brenda Schimenti wrote in an email interview. “As members of the treatment team, they impact patient outcomes for individuals who are often on complex regimens and are among the most underserved in our country. CPNP is working hard to advance the practice of psychiatric pharmacy, communicate the rewards of a career in psychiatric pharmacy, and demonstrate how psychiatric pharmacists favorably impact access, outcomes, and cost.”

The Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) BCPP program also helps expand career opportunities and expertise for pharmacists,1 with the number of BCPPs increasing 23% during the past 4 years.6 There are a variety of requirements to become a BCPP (see TABLE).1

Recertification is required every 7 years by achieving
a passing score on the BPS psychiatric pharmacy recertification examination or obtaining 100 hours of continuing education credit through the BPS-approved professional development program provided by the CPNP.1

Pharmacist Spotlight

In interviews, Melissa Gorecki, PharmD, BCPP, and Abbey Krysiak, PharmD, BCPP, discussed their paths to becoming psychiatric pharmacists and their practice sites.

Gorecki said she discovered psychiatric pharmacy after transitioning into her current role of working with patients with intellectual disabilities and mental illness.

“Once I started this position and really got to know the patients, I saw what an underserved population it really was. I decided I should work to get my BCPP so that I could be on the top of my game to make sure I was giving my patients the best possible care,” said Gorecki, pharmacy manager at the South Dakota Developmental Center in Pierre.

After completing 4 years of postlicensure practice experience in the psychiatric pharmacy field, she obtained her BCPP in 2017.

Krysiak completed a PGY1 residency at Millcreek Community Hospital (MCH) in Erie, Pennsylvania, and then practiced in psychiatric pharmacy for 4 years before obtaining her BCPP. Shadowing a psychiatric pharmacist as a student was a great way for her to gain more experience and enhance her interest in this pharmacy specialty.

“I specifically rotated at MCH because they had multiple units dedicated to psychiatric patients [adult, geriatrics, and pediatrics]. After residency, I decided to stay in Erie, PA, and work as a pharmacy professor with [Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine],” Krysiak said.

Her practice site is the psychiatric unit at MCH, so Krysiak obtained her BCPP to strengthen her credibility as a psychiatric pharmacist.

“As a professor, I helped students form a CPNP student chapter for our campus, and we became very involved with community service,” she said.


Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPH, is a drug information pharmacist and Pharmacy Times® contributor who resides in South Florida.


  1. Psychiatric pharmacy fact sheet. Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Accessed February 16, 2021.
  2. College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists. Issue brief: addressing the treatment gap for opioid and substance use disorders. Accessed February 18, 2021.
  3. Anxiety and depression household pulse survey. CDC. Updated February 24, 2021. Accessed March 3, 2021.
  4. Health Resources & Services Administration. Behavioral health workforce projections, 2017-2030. Accessed February 16, 2021.
  5. Goldstone LW, DiPaula BA, Caballero J, Park SH, Price C, Slater MZ. Improving medication-related outcomes for patients with psychiatric and neurologic disorders: value of psychiatric pharmacists as part of the health care team. Ment Health Clin. 2015;5(1):1-28. doi:10.9740/mhc.2015.01.001
  6. Choosing a career in psychiatric pharmacy. College of Psychiatric andNeurologic Pharmacists. Accessed February 17, 2021.
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