Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose, treat, prevent and alleviate the discomfort of mental disorders. Clinical psychologists help emotionally and mentally distressed patients adapt to life. They also promote personal development and help their clients deal with difficult situations. In addition, clinical psychologists also treat patients dealing with severe psychiatric disorders. Some clinical psychologists help patients deal with diseases or surgeries.
Clinical psychologists focus on the emotional, psychological, biological, intellectual, social and behavioral elements of human lives. Clinical psychologists are involved in psychotherapy, behavior therapy, psychoanalyses and biofeedback. They also provide cognitive retraining and rehabilitation.
Some clinical psychologists provide therapy in a variety of areas and some have specialties. Specialties include families and relationships, emotional disturbances, sports, geriatrics and health psychology. Some clinical psychologists focus on adults or children.
Clinical psychologists also perform research, help develop mental health public policy, develop programs, evaluate mental health delivery systems and participate in other activities which promote mental health.
- Keep detailed records of diagnosis, goals, and treatment notes
- Make behavioral assessments
- Administer and evaluate tests regarding a patients mental disorder
- Interview patients
- Consult with doctors and specialists to develop and implement treatment plans
- Consult with doctors and psychiatrists regarding medications for their patients
The work environment varies by the type of employment and the specialty. Psychologists that have their own practice create their own work schedule and have an office. Private practice psychologists often work in the evenings and sometimes on the weekends to accommodate their patients. Those that have positions in hospitals and healthcare facilities typically work in shifts. Psychologists that are employed by schools and clinics usually work standard daytime hours. Those that work for government agencies and industry have structured work schedules.
Clinical psychologists should be sensitive, compassionate, have patience and perseverance, and be emotionally stable. Those involved in research need to be proficient with detailed work and be able to work well as part of team. In addition, clinical psychologists are sometimes required to travel to perform research or attend conferences.
In 2006, there were approximately 166,000 psychologists jobs. The government has projected a 15 percent growth rate for psychologist positions from 2006 through 2016 which is higher than the average for all other types of employment. However, the growth rate will vary by specialty. The demand for those specializing in working with the elderly is expected to grow at a fast pace due to the growth in the number of senior citizens.
Those with doctoral degrees in psychology from a prominent university in a specialty such as health, counseling and school psychologists have the best prospects for employment. Psychologists with extensive training in quantitative research methods and computer science have an advantage over others for research positions. Clinical psychologists also have opportunities to teach at colleges and medical schools.
The median annual wage and salary for clinical, school and counseling psychologists in 2006 was $59,440. The highest 10 percent earned over $102,730 and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,280.
Clinical Psychology Programs, Certification, and Licensing
Completion of a doctoral or a master's degree program and a license are necessary for clinical psychologists to practice. Usually a doctoral degree is required in order to practice independently. Those with a doctoral degree are eligible to teach, perform research and work in a variety of clinical positions. Typically, clinical psychologists have four to six years of graduate training after earning a bachelor's degree.
About half of clinical psychologists are trained in Ph.D. programs that focus on research and the other half are trained in Psy.D. programs which emphasize practicing clinical psychology. Some schools provide master's degrees in clinical psychology which typically take between two and three years to complete.
Those with a master's degree in psychology are qualified to be employed as industrial-organizational psychologists. They're also eligible to perform research or make psychological evaluations of patients under the supervision of psychologists that hold a doctoral degree.
Clinical psychologists must have a license to practice in the United States. Most states allow licensed or certified psychologists to only practice in areas where they have acquired professional competence through training and experience. Each state has its own qualifications, however the common features among the states include having the appropriate degree from an accredited school and passing a written examination. Some states also require psychologists pass an oral examination.
The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology is required to be taken in most states. Numerous states require additional examinations such as jurisprudence (mental health law). Most of the states also require clinical psychologists to earn continuing education credits each year in order to renew their license. Credits may be earned by taking approved workshops or taking classes. In addition, in most states a specialist degree is necessary to work as a school psychologist.
The American Board of Professional Psychology offers numerous specialty certificates. A doctorate in psychology, post-doctoral training in the applicant's specialty, professional endorsements and several years of experience are required for certification.
- American Psychological Association, Center for Psychology Workforce Analysis and Research and Education Directorate
- National Association of School Psychologists
- Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards
- American Board of Professional Psychology
Some of the major employers are mental health services facilities, hospitals, counseling centers, colleges, substance abuse centers and managed healthcare companies. Other significant employers include schools, medical systems and government agencies.
Schools for Clinical Psychologists are listed in the Browse Schools Section.