Clinical psychologists treat patients with emotional or behavioral illnesses in an office or clinical setting. They also work with college students in academic settings, helping them adjust to college life or deal with other emotional or family problems. A career in clinical psychology isn’t all about counseling patients in an office or writing research papers. Some clinical psychologists are called upon to work with law enforcement and health care professionals to work in crisis situations, cult survivors, high-profile kidnapping cases, and survivors of catastrophic events such as tornadoes or floods.
What They Do
Clinical psychologists are involved in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental disorders with a wide age group of patients. They can specialize in specific areas, such as children, adults, geriatrics and substance abuse. Some psychologists work with young adults and college students on adjusting to adult life, career choices, eating disorders and other problems. They also work with patients with extreme mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and depression. They conduct psychological assessments and evaluations.
Clinical psychologists are not medical doctors, so they cannot prescribe medications. Medical doctors team up with clinical psychologists to evaluate and treat the emotional and mental disorders of patients brought on or exacerbated by physical illnesses.
It may many years of study to complete the educational requirements to become a licensed clinical psychologist. The first step is completing a four or five year bachelor’s degree in psychology or related field, such as education or social work. After graduation, a person will spend an additional five to seven years in a doctoral degree program. Clinical psychology requires a doctoral degree in psychology accredited by the American Psychological Association. Either a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree in psychology will fulfill the educational requirements.
Students in a doctoral program may be required to participate and complete several practicums in a clinical setting and complete a supervised internship, often after completing the doctoral degree program and before taking the required state and national licensing exams.
After completing the required education, practicums and internship, a candidate must pass the required state and licensing exams in order to practice as a clinical psychologist. Requirements and exams can vary by state and the District of Columbia.
Psychologists have a variety of work settings. Clinical research psychologists work in laboratories in universities working on behavioral studies, often with lab animals in controlled experiments or human subjects. In additional to research, they may teach classes and write grants to fund projects and write or present papers in professional journals and conferences.
Many clinical psychologists work in private practice, seeing patients in an office or clinical setting. Those in private practice can set their own hours. Some work in hospitals or social services settings. Occasionally, they may be called upon to intervene in a crisis situation with a patient or to assist other or medical professionals.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data reports the national median annual salary for clinical psychologists at over $66,000. The lowest paid clinical psychologists earned less than $33,000 and the top paid earned more than $111,000 per year.
Of course, salaries will vary according to state and metropolitan area.
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