6 Subspecialties for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

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Nurse practitioners have licensed healthcare providers who assess, diagnose, and treat medical conditions. Nurse practitioners pursue a medical specialty of their choice and must pass a rigorous board-certification exam in order to practice. Those who choose psychiatry earn the credential “PMHNP” which stands for psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners.

These nurse practitioners complete either a master’s or doctorate degree and specialize in the treatment of psychiatric disorders through psychopharmacology and psychotherapy. This journey ranges from six to eight years of education, and it includes rigorous courses, patient simulations, and clinical experiences.

Some of these clinicians continue their education through psychiatric residencies and fellowship programs. Psychiatric nurse practitioners can choose to subspecialize in a variety of fields including addiction, forensics, military, child and adolescent, geriatric, and psychosomatic medicine.

1. Addiction Medicine

Addiction medicine is a medical subspecialty that focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals suffering from addictions. These disorders include substances, gambling, sex, food, internet, and others. Psychiatric nurse practitioners in this specialty can work in hospitals, detoxification clinics, outpatient offices, halfway houses, and recovery centers. To get more involved with this subspecialty, search on Health eCareers, and explore the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s website.

2. Forensic Psychiatry

Forensic psychiatry focuses on the intersection between mental health and the legal system. These nurse practitioners provide expert testimony to a jury during a trial and offer expertise in criminal responsibility, competency to stand trial, juvenile justice, and child custody issues. They often work at correctional facilities, courts, hospitals, or private practices. To get more involved with this subspecialty, search on Health eCareers, and explore the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law website.

3. Military

This subspecialty focuses on mental health conditions in the military context. It includes assessment and treatment of conditions like substance abuse, major depression, and traumatic stress. These nurse practitioners can work in a variety of settings such as Veterans Affairs Hospitals. To get more involved with this subspecialty, search for VA mental health jobs on Health eCareers and explore the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

4. Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Child and adolescent psychiatry focuses on the assessment and treatment of behavioral disorders affecting children and their families. These nurse practitioners provide medical education, prescribe medication, and conduct psychotherapy. Their expertise focuses on special forms of treatment like play therapy and family therapy. They often treat disorders like autism spectrum disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, mental retardation, and mood disorders. To get more involved with this subspecialty, search on Health eCareers, and explore the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website.

5. Geriatric Psychiatry

Geriatric psychiatry focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health conditions in older adults. These nurse practitioners are experts in managing conditions like dementia, depression, and late-life addiction. They are also highly skilled at providing counseling for those experiencing grief, feelings of isolation, financial stress, fear of death, and emotional concern related to pain and cancer. To get more involved with this subspecialty, search on Health eCareers, and explore the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry website.

6. Psychosomatic Medicine

Psychosomatic medicine, also called consultation-liaison psychiatry, focuses on the interface between physical and mental illness. These nurse practitioners conduct medical capacity evaluations and treat complex substance withdrawal, comorbid psychiatric and medical conditions, delirium, suicide attempts, and somatoform disorders.