What to Know About Becoming a Psychiatric NP

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There are a couple of different reasons you could be interested in the steps to becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner

In one scenario, it might be a career field you’re exploring for yourself. In another, it could be that you’re interested because you need a mental health care provider, and you’d like to learn more about the differences. 

Either way, the following information could be useful to you as far as understanding what they do and the training and education required to become a psychiatric NP. 

What is a Psychiatric NP?

A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is also known as a PMHNP. This position is becoming more widely recognized as we understand more about how mental health affects every aspect of people’s lives, and seeking mental health care is less stigmatized. 

These healthcare professionals deliver a range of mental health services to their clients. 

As a PMHNP, there is the potential to have a long-lasting, positive impact on patients’ health. 

A PMHNP can write prescriptions and manage medicines, provide therapy in a group or individual setting, and help patients’ holistic well-being. 

These healthcare providers are responsible for every aspect of a patient’s mental health, from the diagnostic process to treatment and management. There are a lot of subspecialties a mental health NP can pursue, such as substance abuse, or working with children. 

They work in different settings like private practices, hospitals, clinics, and assisted living facilities. 

Along with the medical knowledge needed for this role, a psychiatric NP also needs to possess empathy, strong communication skills, and attention to detail. 


Some of the many responsibilities of this type of nurse practitioner include the following:

Assessment and diagnosis of mental health conditions

This is the foundation of what these types of healthcare professionals do. An NP can delve into a patient’s background and use evidence to support their diagnosis. In order to diagnose mental health conditions, including ones that are complex, an NP has to have an in-depth understanding of symptoms. 

Creating and implementing treatment plans

A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner will work with a patient throughout the entirety of their course of treatment. They have to listen to the patient and assess what they’re comfortable with when developing a path to move forward. 


Medication management and monitoring of progress

An NP in a psychiatric role will determine which medications could be appropriate and prescribe them at the proper dosage. From there, an NP can track the response of their patient to the medicine, and they can monitor their progress overall. 

Patient education

Psychiatric mental health NPs work with their patients to talk in-depth about the availability of treatment options, and they can work with clients on lifestyle factors that impact their mental health. 

What Are the Steps to Becoming a PMHNP?

This advanced position means a professional in this role provides the full spectrum of psychiatric care. 

The path to becoming a PMHNP can include the following:

  • Getting a bachelor’s or associate degree in nursing. The education requirements for becoming a nurse depend on your state, but typically, you have to participate in a postsecondary program that’s multiple years. 
  • To become an NP of any type, you then have to become a registered nurse. It’s required to be an RN before you apply to a master’s program. 
  • If you want to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, after you become an RN, you must go on to earn your master’s degree. This is a graduate level of education, and you can become licensed as an NP. Some NPs do earn their doctoral degree, but it isn’t required. This is the phase when you choose an area of specialty. 
  • A lot of NPs will then earn certification in their area of specialty, although it’s not always required. 
  • Any job as a medical professional requires that you complete a certain number of clinical practice hours. You might complete hundreds of hours before you get a license and a job as an NP. This is your time to gain hands-on experience. 

The final step is getting your license. You have to pass certification exams, varying depending on the state you’re in. Once you get the required licenses, you usually have to go through a renewal process every 5-10 years, and that can mean that you have to keep up with continuing education. 

Advanced practice nursing, which is what this role is categorized as, is expected to see much faster growth than a lot of other professions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, making it a compelling option, especially for someone interested in mental health care.