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A counseling psychologist is someone who pairs theoretical concepts with the latest scientific breakthroughs in the behavioural health field in a practical, useful manner within a therapeutic or educational setting. The latest clinical research studying the complex interplay of neurotransmitters is of little use to an individual currently suffering from clinical depression, for example. Counseling psychologists give the field of psychology its humanity. Without the work of these dedicated individuals, all of the neuropsychological studies in the world would have no practical application.
The mental health field is one of the most exciting career fields to pursue in the 21st century. Clinical research continues to uncover the mysteries of the human mind, particularly within the discipline of neuropsychology. According to the renowned clinical psychiatrist Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, over the last 25 years scientists have discovered more about the inner workings of the brain than the previous 100 years combined.
Individuals interested in pursuing a career in the mental health field should be aware of the difference between psychiatry and psychology:
The mental health field diverges even further into counseling psychology and clinical psychology. Both of these professional careers overlap in many areas such as work environment, but generally speaking, clinical psychologists work with individuals that are more impaired. Counseling psychologists take a more general approach to the mental health field, focusing on a more developmental perspective.
Counseling psychologists do in fact provide therapy services, but the term “therapist" is a broad term. Therapists can be counseling psychologists as well as clinical psychologists, and in certain situations a social worker can act as a therapist as well.
Counseling psychologists engage in many more activities other than psychotherapy such as teaching or offering consulting services within professional organizations. They may assist in career development and research as well. Also, vocational development falls within the purview of counseling psychology.
Counseling psychologists can work in a private practice setting, an outpatient facility, or in a hospital setting. The workplace of counseling psychologists depends upon the type of clients a practitioner chooses to serve. For example, colleges and major universities employ counseling psychologists to teach as well as conduct research alongside clinical psychologists. Businesses and corporations may hire counseling psychologists for consultation services as well. Public health facilities also employ counseling psychologists to oversee the vocational coordination of the facility's services in addition to coordinating group-orientated psychotherapy.
Counseling psychologists must earn a doctoral level degree in order to begin a career as a practitioner. Major universities across North America offer PhD coursework in counseling psychology, but a PsyD (doctorate of psychology) is an option as well. Both advanced degrees in counseling psychology require at least four years of graduate study in addition to a full-time internship.
Advanced degrees in counseling psychology encompass core concepts in psychology as well as areas of specialization such as biological and cognitive schools of thought. Lastly, individuals seeking an advanced degree in counseling psychology must complete an original dissertation in order to obtain a degree.