Psychology Major Careers: Exploring Clinical Psychology
What is a Clinical Psychologist?
Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behavior. Clinical Psychology is the branch that takes this information and applies it in ‘real life’ settings. This can include psychological assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
As one of a number of practitioner psychologists, Clinical Psychologists often work with people with mental illness, cognitive impairments, and/or behavioral problems. Other practitioner psychologists include Counseling Psychologists, Educational Psychologists, Forensic Psychologists, Health Psychologists, Occupational Psychologists, and Sports and Exercise Psychologists.
Clinical Psychologists work from a scientist/practitioner model. This means taking current evidence-based techniques that are strongly supported by peer-reviewed research, and applying it in their daily practice. Using approaches that aren’t clearly evidence-based can have serious repercussions for a practitioner psychologist, including discipline or de-registration.
A Career in Clinical Psychology
Clinical Psychologists are able to assess and diagnose individuals with mental illness. They’re also able to assess cognitive ability, including measuring an individual’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ), along with assessing any cognitive impairments or disabilities. For assessments, they use a range of interview techniques, direct observations and standardized assessment tools. Following an assessment, a Clinical Psychologist will often prepare a support plan or a list of recommendations to address the individuals emotional, psychological, social and cognitive needs. It is not unusual for them to include recommendations for other services such as a review with a psychiatrist, occupational therapist or speech therapist.
Further to assessment and diagnosis, Clinical Psychologists are also able to provide both counseling and psychotherapy. Many Counselors or Therapists specialize in one particular form of therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy or Narrative Therapy. However Clinical Psychologists are trained in a wide range of evidence-based approaches. This allows them to draw on various models to best suit the situation. This can be a real advantage to clients, especially if they aren’t sure of what approach would be best suited to their needs.
Job Description for Clinical Psychology
The areas and clients that Clinical Psychologists work with can be wide-ranging, and include:
- Mental illness, including mood disorders such as Anxiety and Depression, personality disorders and psychotic disorders
- Addiction and recovery
- Adjustment to life changing circumstances, including loss of a loved one or diagnosis of a terminal illness
- Behavioral problems
- Relationships and families
- Working with people who have experienced trauma, abuse and/or neglect
- Working with people with an intellectual disability or learning difficulty
Many Clinical Psychologists will be based in a health care setting such as hospitals, health centers, community mental health teams and social services. Clinical Psychologists may also work in private practice.
‘Clinical Psychologist’ is a protected title, and is a legally regulated profession. Having a degree in psychology is not the same as being a Clinical Psychologist. To become registered, a minimum of six years of study and training is required, often with one to two years of further training or heavily supervised practice. Depending on where you live, registration is via a state or country-based regulation agency. Remaining registered usually involves renewing your registration annually, abiding by a code of ethics and practice guidelines, and committing to a number of hours of supervision and professional development training. Always ensure that the course you are undertaking makes you eligible for registration in the state or country that you wish to practice in – most degrees will state this clearly in their description.
Gaining entry into the postgraduate courses for Clinical Psychology is highly competitive. A good grasp of numbers is needed for subjects such as statistics, as well as excellent marks in an undergraduate degree. Due to the competitive nature of the postgraduate degrees, work experience is almost always essential in order to be considered for a place. Spending several years gaining experience both in practice and research settings between degrees is not uncommon. Nor is applying to multiple universities for a number of years before being accepted into a course. If you’re interested in Clinical Psychology as a profession, then now is the time to become proactive about volunteering or taking a part-time job in a psychology-related position. If you are looking for more career options, we offer a list of careers for psychology majors.