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Clinical Psychologist: Education and Career Information

Clinical psychology is an in-depth study of the diagnosis and treatment of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. It combines theory, science and practice to understand and assist patients in their adaptation, adjustment and personal development. This is a highly specialized area that focuses on the psychological, social, emotional, biological, behavioral and intellectual aspect of individuals and how they function. You will find clinical psychologists in mental health clinics, at governmental agencies, and in schools. Based on their area of concentration, you will find clinical psychologists working in a number of industries.

What is a clinical psychologist?

A clinical psychologist specializes in diagnosing and treating patients with certain disorders. This requires a detailed assessment of the patient’s condition based on careful assessment and evaluation. A clinical psychologist uses their scientific and professional training and skillset to work with individuals on a number of developmental levels and groups to promote a positive mental state using a wide range of tools and resources. The clinical psychologist works in prevention, intervention and the adjustment of individuals who have severe mental disorder that may result in them being placed in an institution.

Clinical psychologists are also researchers. They study theory and practice, engaging in program development to share their findings with students, other professionals and people interested in the field. They are adept at evaluating Clinical Psychology service delivery, and can develop and implement public policy on regulations and best practices. This role works through interventions that prevent, treat and correct emotional issues and personality disturbances using techniques such as psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, social learning approaches, psychoanalysis, behavior therapy and group therapy. Clinical psychologists help evaluate a range of disorders, including:

•Addictive behaviors
•Personal and family relationship problems
•Childhood behavior and developmental disorders
•Ongoing mental illness conditions

They use a series of tools and methods to diagnose patients through a clinical assessment. These tools include:


How much do they earn?

Clinical psychologists earn on average about $87,000, but the salary varies based on level of education, locations and years of experience. According to the BLS, the top 10 percent of clinical psychologists earned over $110,000 annually. Statistics show that after five years of experience, the salary significantly increases with each additional year.

What types of skills are required to be successful in this career field?

These are the skills necessary to be an effective clinical psychologist:

Interpersonal skills: Clinical psychologists deal with a number of people that include clients, healthcare professionals, families and more. Being able to speak to and work with diverse groups is a skill clinical psychologists cannot do without.

Research and Science: With clinical psychology being a highly scientific area, being able to seek and extract information to assist healthcare professionals, or finding information about your patient is crucial. Not knowing the situation at hand can cause a number of problems. Using research techniques to solve problems will help you in having the information you need to disseminate it to others if necessary and in evaluating the client. Every assessment and treatment recommendation is based on information gathered and scientific methods to resolve them in an objective manner.

Objectivity: When dealing with individuals who have emotional and mental disorders, it is important to remain objective in every instance. As a licensed professional, it is important to keep an unbiased stance, using information gathered and facts when making an evaluation.

Interest in human behavior: It is important to have a vested interest in the progression of the study of human behavior to be an effective clinician. It helps keep the foundation of helping others and resolving problems at the forefront of every scenario.

Interviewing: Interviewing skills are a must in this role. You will speak to and observe patients in a number of environments. Being able to interview them using varied techniques will help in getting answers. In this profession, effective interviewing is a priority.

Communication: Being able to communicate with clients and in group settings is important. You want to make sure everyone is comfortable enough to give you the information needed to diagnose mental illnesses. Clinical psychologists must keep thorough and detailed notes on every client and every session to communicate the information to others when needed. Communication is one of the most important components of this entire role.

Analytic: Once the information has been gathered from the patient, group or family setting, those responses are evaluated based on criteria that helps diagnose disorders. A clinical psychologist must know and understand therapies and treatments. This requires a good background in applying theory, evaluating information, solving problems, and making the right decision that will benefit the clients.

Internship requirements

Every individual pursuing a career in clinical psychology must complete an internship under the supervision of licensed faculty. They take between one and two years to complete and include a number of seminars, clinical rotations and opportunities to work in different capacities to determine, which field is most interesting to you. An internship usually lasts 2,000 hours or more.

Education requirements

The road to clinical psychology is intensive. There are a number of requirements to complete. A bachelor’s degree in psychology is the first step. This will lay the foundation for coursework in a master’s program. Once you have received the master’s degree, entering a doctoral program to receive a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. degree in clinical or counseling psychology comes next. The doctoral program can take four or five years after the master’s degree is completed. Knowing which path you wish to take is key. Here are the differences:

•A Ph.D. program’s foundation is in research. Most people with a Ph.D. degree work in academic or governmental fields.

•A Psy.D. program is for those individuals who want to apply what they have learned into practice. These individuals work in medical settings, healthcare facilities and private practices.

Coursework for the program includes scientist practitioner, adult assessment, statistics in psychology, social oppression, social psychology, cognitive psychology and more. After all the requirements are met and the internships are completed, you will be able to sit for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology licensure exam.

Psychology Scholarships

American Psychological Foundation Scholarships Association of Black Psychologists Epilepsy Foundation
Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship Future Counselors of America Scholarship Gallagher Koster Health Careers Scholarship
Kay Wilson Presidential Leadership Award NIH Undergraduate Scholarship NAJA Graduate Scholarship
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Psi Chi Awards and Grants Wayne F. Placek Grants


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