A clinical psychologist is a psychologist who works specifically in a clinical mental health setting. These are the types of psychologists that most people think of when they hear the term "psychologist." Instead of performing research or participating in studies, these psychologists work in the field with patients.
Clinical psychologists are often portrayed in movies and television shows, and it is important to realize that clinical psychologists may have a very different day-to-day work life than what is shown on TV. They may have some exciting, interesting cases, but much of their day is spent doing more ordinary tasks like filling out paperwork.
A clinical psychologist works directly in the mental health field with patients. They may work with patients one-on-one or in a group setting, diagnosing and treating patients for various different mental disorders. Clinical psychologists differ from other types of psychologists because they specialize in abnormal psychology.
It is important to note that clinical psychologists typically do not prescribe medication. By law, only psychiatrists are able to prescribe psychiatric medication. There is now legislation that has been passed in several US states that allows some clinical psychologists to prescribe medication, and this has sparked a debate whether this is a good thing or not. While psychologists and psychiatrists may sound similar and both work in the mental health field, they perform very different roles and require different types of education.
A clinical psychologist's goal is to help their patients understand their problems and then recover from their problems. Clinical psychologists use the most up-to-date version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA) to guide and confirm their diagnosis, as well as their treatment plans. Clinical psychologists must tailor their treatment plans to each individual patient, as different people have different problems, and respond best to different forms of therapy. Even two people with the same problem may respond very differently to treatment and recovery plans.
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If someone aims to be a clinical psychologist, it is best for them to earn a B.A. in Psychology. During their undergraduate years, a person must maintain a high GPA, as becoming a clinical psychologist necessitates a graduate-level education. In fact, in most areas, someone must earn a Ph.D. in Psychology in order to work as a clinical psychologist. The exception to this is a select few Canadian provinces which only require a master's degree.
Earning a Ph.D. in Psychology will require earning high marks in graduate level classes, completing a Master's thesis and a dissertation, participating in university-sponsored research, and gaining hands-on experience in the clinical sector. Earning a Ph.D in Psychology combines bits of doctoral programs from the liberal arts to the sciences to med school in order to adequately prepare a student to practice psychology with patients after they have earned their degree and gained their license.
After earning a Ph.D. in Psychology, the student must then take a licensing exam for their state in order to practice. Many states also require that the student complete a residency or internship program before they are able to apply for their license. Earning a Ph.D. in Psychology may take just as long, or longer, than going to medical school.
Clinical psychologists find work in various mental health, medical, and social service settings. Many clinical psychologists are self-employed, working in their own private practice with clients. Others are partners with other mental health professionals in a practice. Still others work beneath other mental health professionals in a private practice.
Some clinical psychologists choose to work in mental health hospitals or group homes, such as eating behavior residential programs. Others find employment through government or charity-sponsored programs serving the community, or through university programs that serve the students and staff of that particular school. There is a need for clinical psychologists in every community all over the world.