Clinical psychology is a branch of psychology that helps patients overcome mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Clinical psychologists study the reasons why people make certain decisions and why they act in certain ways. They calibrate the effect of brain function and environment on a person’s behavior, and they help get to the root of any significant, life-altering issues in their patients.
Most clinical psychologists work indoors with patients and conduct much of their business through face-to-face discussion. They are typically key decision makers, with the freedom to assess situations, choose courses of action, develop plans to execute those courses of action and absorb the consequences of their decisions.
Because of the sensitive nature of the business – working with peoples’ psyches –accuracy and attentiveness are vitally important. Consequences of any errors can be exceptionally serious, but many working in the role embrace the freedom and flexibility of being the primary decision maker.
Typical Work Responsibilities
Clinical psychologists typically excel as communicators. They have to collect information from patients through direct social contact, administer standardized physical and psychological tests, diagnose disorders and counsel clients on mental health or personal achievement.
Their work extends beyond face-to-face client care, however. Depending on experience, many clinical psychologists are also responsible for preparing scientific and technical reports or presentations, planning research, directing healthcare programs, developing educational programs, reviewing literature to stay up-to-date on the industry, supervising trainees and designing psychological or educational treatment procedures.
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Job Outlook & Salary
Based on median salaries, clinical psychologists can expect to earn about $68,900 annually – or upwards of $33 an hour – and the job market is steadily growing due to demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, agencies, mental health centers, substance abuse treatment clinics and other locales in need of health service providers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently more than 145,000 psychologists working nationwide, and the field is expected to grow another 8% to 14% through 2022. That leaves an estimated 55,900 job openings for incoming psychologists over the next few years. Opportunity should be best for those holding a doctoral degree.
Education and Certification Requirements
Clinical psychologist positions require extensive training and education. Most people aspiring to the role need a four-year Bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field.
In most instances, post-graduate degrees are also necessary. This means a Master’s or Doctoral degree in clinical psychology is often required – though most states prohibit those without a doctoral degree from using the term ‘psychologist’ in their professional title.
Skills and Qualities
According to the American Board of Professional Psychology, individuals seeking employment as a clinical psychologist should embody certain competencies, including:
- Relationships: sensitivity to the welfare, rights and dignity of others.
- Individual and Cultural Diversity: demonstrate knowledge, sensitivity and skill working with individuals, representative of all aspects of diversity.
- Professionalism: demonstrate professional values, attitudes and behaviors that represent integrity, personal responsibility and adherence to professional standards.
- Science, Knowledge and Methods: awareness of scientific and scholarly developments in psychology.
- Evidence-Based Practice: demonstrate capacity to integrate current research literature into clinical practice, research/evaluation and other functional competency domains where applicable.
- Intervention: demonstrate knowledge of evidence-based practice and the scientific and theoretical basis of intervention.
- Consultation: demonstrate knowledge of the literature and science base relevant to specific consultative methods and processes.
Psychology is always changing because people are always changing. It’s the only discipline in the industry that studies how people act, and why they act in certain ways. It’s an industry for those who are curious, communicative and creative enough to help people overcome mental, emotional and behavioral roadblocks.