Psychologists are interested in what makes people tick. Clinical psychology focuses on mental illness, emotional or behavioral disorders. A clinical psychologist is not a medical doctor, but has plenty of smarts and spends years learning about the ways people get along with each other in daily life. This well-paid profession -- clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned an average salary of $73,090 in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- has a bright future.
Therapy and Counseling
Although psychologists have many roles in research, industry and schools, clinical psychologists limit their practice to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness or emotional problems. A clinical psychologist might help you and your hubby figure out why you always squabble about money or his nights out with the boys. Although it may feel a little uncomfortable to bare your soul in a group, a skillful clinical psychologist can also help even unrelated people learn better ways to communicate and or work together.
Education and Licensure
Psychologists don't have to be bookworms, but they do spend as much as eight to 10 years in the educational process. A clinical psychologist must obtain a doctorate in psychology from a school that is accredited by the American Psychological Association. Clinical psychology coursework is heavily focused on personality traits, normal and abnormal behavior and the ways in which people display emotional or behavioral problems in daily life. In addition to classroom training, clinical psychologists spend many hours working directly with patients to gain experience. All states require that clinical psychologists be licensed.
Testing and Referrals
In addition to providing therapy, clinical psychologists often do psychological testing. Personality tests can help you understand why it's so important to you to turn off lights or cap the toothpaste after you brush your teeth, or whether you're eligible for Mensa, the high IQ society. Testing may also help determine the presence of more serious problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder -- ADHD -- dyslexia or other neurological conditions that can affect a person’s ability to function in daily life. If tests show you might need to pop a pill, the psychologist can help you connect with a medical doctor who can prescribe what you need.
Clinical psychologists need some specific skills to perform their work, according to the Occupational Information Network. Clinical psychologists should be good listeners; if you're going to lie on a couch and talk about yourself, you want to know the doctor is paying attention. If you need a good cry, the psychologist should provide the tissues and stand by in support. A psychologist is like a safari guide in some ways, leading a client through the tangled jungle of her mind and emotions to help her solve her problems.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Psychologists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011 19-3031 Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
- Occupational Information Network: Summary Report for 19-3031.02 - Clinical Psychologists
- American Psychological Association: About Clinical Psychology
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.