Clinical psychology is a subfield of psychology, and methodically speaking, not all psychology takes place in a clinical setting. Clinical psychology is a specialty that especially focuses on diagnosing, treating and preventing disorders. Mental disorders are not merely inconvenient (something a counselor might deal with), but potentially dangerous to the patient or to others. Mental and emotional disorders can cause patients immense anxiety and affect the overall happiness and direction of their lives.
The Career Path of Clinical Psychology
While some graduates go on to careers in university teaching, researching, or shaping public policy, others choose to work one-on-one with patients, helping them put away destructive patterns, toxic thinking, and other disorder symptoms. The degree usually requires a master’s degree or even a doctorate degree, which can take upwards of six years total in class.
Clinical psychologists may work with a wide variety of patients or specialize in a category, such as a child psychologist, or one who talks to teens or families. Since they are not psychiatrists, they do not work with medication except in rare instances, and only when states allow it according to law. However, since the goal is clinical psychology, medication is often downplayed in favor of cognitive and behavioral reasoning and education. Other subsections within the field might include disabilities, disturbed children or teens, recovering addictive personalities, geriatric patients or health issues. Some doctors may even choose to focus on treating one type of disorder.
Whether you work in a private setting or a facility remains your choice, though clinical practice will often involve similar techniques as private practice. In cases of clients complaining about depression, suicide or schizophrenic symptoms, the treatment is pertinent because of the potential for life or death situations. Documenting everything will be paramount, as the medical staff must keep detailed records of all treatment notes, assessments, goals, and so on. Statistically, the APA Research Office stated private practice is the most common choice for licensed psychologists specializing in clinical work, coming to sixty-five percent. The profession is also expected to rise beyond that of similar professions, at least for the next decade.
A master’s degree might suffice in some cases, but in a competitive field, more students are opting for doctoral degree in a specifically related topic, like clinical psychology. It is not unheard of that you might find a job with a bachelor’s degree, but a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree will demonstrate that you want to make a commitment to education, and the work experience you may obtain. The Psy.D. degree actually takes less time than the Ph.D., which tends to involve researching as a career and educator.
Lastly, consider the conversational requirements needed beyond the ability to diagnose. You must be creative when developing strategies to work with patients, but must also be patient in drawing patients out, as they are often vulnerable, more so than in traditional counseling.
This is a job that will be personally fulfilling, creatively challenging and independent. Best of all, patients whom you help will be grateful and leave you with warm feelings as you serve your community with a unique talent.