Academic Psychiatry

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 203–210

Teaching Medication Compliance to Psychiatric Residents: Placing an Orphan Topic Into a Training Curriculum




Medication compliance is an orphan topic. Training in the understanding and management of noncompliance does not neatly fall within the domain of psychopharmacology, nor does it clearly fit into other core curricula areas, such as clinical interviewing or psychotherapy training. The objective of this article is to increase awareness about this vagueness among academic psychiatrists and to offer a suggested curriculum to facilitate implementation.


The authors present a curriculum covering major aspects of the theory and practice of compliance. The proposed curriculum is divided into five core components that can be used together or separately. These components are: 1) definition of compliance and noncompliance; 2) understanding how compliance depends on efficacy; 3) assessment of compliance and noncompliance; 4) the importance of the therapeutic alliance; and 5) pharmacological and psychosocial strategies to improve compliance. These five sections can be modified into specific lectures that are added to ongoing psychopharmacology, psychiatric interviewing or psychotherapy courses.


A careful review of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) core curriculum found no mention of medication compliance/adherence as a specific training goal, and our residency program like many others did not have a specific course that focused on this issue. To address this omission, the authors designed and taught a five-session course for PGY-III and PGY-IV psychiatry residents that specifically addressed assessment and management of noncompliance. It was piloted in the 2003–2004 academic year. The course was very well received and formed the basis of this material presented in this review and discussion.


The principles of understanding, assessing, and managing medication compliance should be a part of the core curriculum for every psychiatric residency training program.


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Copyright information

© Academic Psychiatry 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PsychiatrySUNY Downstate Medical CenterBrooklynUSA

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