Clinical Psychologist Career, Salary, and Education Information

Clinical psychologist meeting with a client

What do Clinical Psychologists do?

Clinical psychologists evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients struggling with various mental health problems. These professionals make up the largest concentration of psychologists in the United States. Some clinical psychologists develop expertise in specific disorders, which could include severe anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and bipolar disorders.

Many provide counseling services for people struggling to cope with divorces, relationship problems, and emotional problems. Clinical psychologists utilize various evaluation and treatment techniques while working with their patients, which are typically dependent upon their selected specialty.

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Assessment and Diagnosis

To adequately evaluate and diagnose a patient for various mental health problems, including maladaptive interpersonal disorders and neurodevelopmental and cognitive problems, it’s advantageous for clinical psychologists to be acquainted with current research.

They must also thoroughly understand the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-R) and properly apply the diagnostic strategies outlined in it. Once proper diagnoses have been made, they have the option of recommending treatments or referring patients to other mental health professionals.

Once treatment has been administered, effective clinical psychologists should have the ability to determine whether it’s working and make any necessary adjustments. Failure to make adjustments can have negative and unintended future consequences.

Conduct Psychotherapy

Clinical psychologists utilize various techniques while administering psychotherapy to patients struggling to cope with behavioral, emotional, and other problems. Frequently, individuals struggling with mental health problems also experience poor physical health resulting from anxiety and stress.

College students studying to be clinical psychologists will be taught numerous types of theories and psychotherapy treatment strategies. As a result, they will have flexible skills after graduating, permitting them to evaluate patients from various backgrounds and cater treatments to their specific needs.

Where Do Clinical Psychologists Work

Many clinical psychologists manage their own private practices. Depending on their preference, many decide to work exclusively with groups, families, or individuals. It’s not uncommon for clinical psychologists to be employed at hospitals and medical clinics, so they can collaborate closely with other medical professionals while providing patient care, especially when medication is administered.

Many clinical psychologists teach and conduct research in academic settings like universities, colleges, and medical schools. Since some clinical psychologists specialize in assisting people struggling with chronic pain or debilitating injuries, they can be found working at physical rehabilitation clinics. Many clinical psychologists are also employed at substance abuse rehabilitation clinics, mental health hospitals, community health centers, and schools.

Clinical psychologists are in demand in every region throughout the United States. The following are organizations where clinical psychologists can be found:

  • Government agencies
  • Veterans’ and military hospitals
  • Drug rehabilitation and correctional facilities
  • Elementary and secondary schools
  • Colleges and universities
  • Hospitals and medical clinics
  • Mental health hospitals and community centers
  • Group and private practices

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Clinical Psychologist Specialties

If you’re interested in clinical psychology, the following specializations are available: health psychology (the study of how psychosomatic factors affect mental and physical health), child psychology, geropsychology, and neuropsychology.

Neuropsychologists specialize in how brain functions affect behavior, while geropsychologists work exclusively with elderly people struggling with anxiety, stress, or emotional problems. If you specialize, you can also develop expertise in these sub-specialties: substance abuse, emotional disorders, learning disabilities, and cognitive disorders. This growing trend reflects the demand for specialized services within various populations.

Since psychologists are not licensed medical doctors, they’re typically not allowed to prescribe medication; however, the states of New Mexico and Louisiana permit clinical psychologists adhering to certain standards to prescribe some types of medications. Psychiatrists are permitted to prescribe medication since they’re licensed doctors.

Clinical Psychologist Career Fields

Clinical psychologists frequently set-up their own private practices or join group practices. During the early 2000’s, over 60 percent of clinical psychologists worked in private practice. Many clinical psychologists managing their own practices specialize. Specialized clinics administering cognitive-behavioral, psychoanalytic, and humanistic therapies can be found throughout the United States.

Clinical psychologists employed at hospitals catering to specialized populations, such as children, cancer patients, or the elderly, typically have skills that match the needs of patients receiving treatment in one of these facilities. For example, clinical psychologists employed at children’s hospitals usually specialize in neurodevelopmental and other childhood related disorders.

Clinical forensic psychologists, professionals specializing in criminal evaluation and investigation, need to be well acquainted with how courts function and legal proceedings are conducted. They must also be trained to properly evaluate the competency and sanity of accused criminals.

Clinical sports psychologists must be well versed in cognitive-behavioral therapy since their patients are trying to alter certain behaviors and reach goals related to their athletic performance.

The following psychologists can be found in clinical settings:

  • Child Psychologist
  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Senior Psychologist in hospital setting
  • Domestic Violence Psychologist
  • Child Abuse psychologist
  • Health Psychologist
  • Military Psychologist
  • Prison Psychologist
  • Substance Abuse Psychologist
  • Mood Disorder Psychologist
  • Sports Psychologist
  • Research Psychologist
  • Professor of Psychology

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Clinical Psychologist Education and Training

Entry-level clinical psychology jobs can be obtained by individuals holding a master’s degree, but those holding doctoral degrees will have more job opportunities to choose from. Although people applying to graduate degree programs in clinical psychology can get accepted without holding an undergraduate degree in psychology, many programs will only accept graduate students with psychology degrees.

Two of the more popular types of clinical psychology doctoral degrees are the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology. Those obtaining PsyD’s are typically trained to administer clinical treatments, while those with PhD’s in psychology participate in university-level research. Many students enroll in PsyD programs because they take less time to complete, and graduates usually have more practical employment opportunities. Psychology PhD students usually obtain more generous stipends than students in PsyD programs.

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