A clinical psychologist meets with patients and assesses mental-health conditions and learning disorders. Once a diagnosis is made, she develops a therapy plan, which may include individual, family and small group sessions. When working with children, the clinical psychologist also commonly works with parents to implement behavioral modification programs.
While much of the typical day for a clinical psychologist is spent meeting with patients, many professionals start early and work late to keep up on the research, note-taking and writing side of their jobs. Typical psychologists engage in a host of non-patient activities, including research, teaching and practicum supervision for doctoral students, program development and social advocacy for better mental health benefits for patients. Psychologists often publish research findings and case studies in professional journals.
The bulk of the day involves one-hour meeting sessions with patients. The initial appointment with a new patient is an assessment or evaluation meeting. During these sessions, the psychologist conducts written and verbal evaluations to diagnose a patient's condition or problem. Some psychologists work with children, and meetings include time with the child, parents and others closely involved in the child's life. The purpose of these assessment meetings is to formulate a treatment plan, if necessary.
Treatment in clinical psychology is usually referred to as intervention therapy. Most patient meetings in a given day are for intervention therapy. Typically, the psychologist spends much of the session listening to a patient discuss concerns, describe progress or talk through feelings. Therapies generally fall into one of three categories -- cognitive or mental, behavioral, and emotional. At the extreme, a clinical psychologist might have a patient admitted to a mental health facility. In child or family situations where kids are in emotional or physical danger, the extreme scenario is the involvement of human services or child protective services.
Given the weighty responsibilities of clinical psychology, the education and training requirements are rigorous. You need a doctoral degree in clinical psychology to counsel patients. The American Psychological Association oversees accreditation of college psychology programs. During the doctoral program, clinical psychologists receive intensive training in counseling and psychopathology. These abilities are what largely distinguish a clinical psychologist from an academic one. Once you meet educational requirements, you can obtain a license, which is required to practice clinical psychology in all U.S. states.
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