Clinical Psychologist Careers, Education Requirements, Salary, Information

What is Clinical Psychology?

Everyone has off days when they just don’t feel like themselves. For the majority of people, these feelings are normal, and they don’t last long at all. For some, however, these feelings are more serious, and they could indicate a mental or emotional problem.

Clinical psychology is a broad branch of psychology that focuses on diagnosing and treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Some of the more common disorders that might be treated include learning disabilities, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

The field of psychology became more recognized during the second half of the 19th century, although clinical psychology wasn’t recognized until the end of the 19th century. It was around this time that Lightner Witmer first helped treat a boy with a learning disability. In 1896, Witmer opened the first psychology clinic, which catered to children with disabilities. In 1907, he coined the phrase “clinical psychology” in his new psychology journal, called The Psychology Clinic.

Although his ideas were somewhat slow to catch on, Witmer is now credited with being one of the founding fathers of clinical psychology. His progress in treating that one child helped pave the way for the future of clinical psychology.

What are the Education Requirements to Become a Clinical Psychologist?

As with all other psychology careers, becoming a clinical psychologist requires extensive training and education. In order to start a clinical psychology career, individuals will typically need to earn a Bachelor’s in psychology or clinical psychology.

Additional schooling is also usually necessary after the four year degree. This typically includes earning a Master’s degree and Doctoral degree in clinical psychology.  To learn more about the available colleges for these programs in your area visit our Find a School Page.

Spotlight Clinical Psychology Degree Offerings

What Does a Clinical Psychologist do?

Individuals pursuing clinical psychology careers will often have the choice of practicing general clinical psychology or focusing specifically on certain types of patients or disorders. For example, a clinical psychologist might focus on working with children or the elderly, or they might focus on working only with patients who are diagnosed with eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Simply put, a clinical psychologist has three main duties:

1. Assess the patient
2. Diagnose disorders
3. Recommend a possible treatment

Assessing a patient typically involves speaking with and interviewing him and possibly his loved ones. During these interviews, a clinical psychologist will often learn a great deal about what’s troubling his patients. The most common way for a clinical psychologist to gather information about a patient is by observing him and his actions. A patient himself or his loved ones will also be able to offer some insight as to how he acts, and what his thoughts and feelings are.

Once a clinical psychologist has assessed a patient, he will then usually diagnose him. In order to do this, the psychologist will study any information, such as unusual thoughts and behaviors. The
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-R) can then be used to help diagnose a patient according to his specific symptoms.

Recommending a specific course of treatment is another important responsibility of a clinical psychologist. In some cases, a psychologist may be able to treat the patients himself. More severe or unusual cases, on the other hand, may require the help of mental health professionals that are more experienced in certain disorders.

What Types of Treatments are Used in Clinical Psychology?

Clinical psychologists typically don’t use medication to treat disorders. If medication is needed for a particular disorder, the patient will usually be referred to another mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist.

Different types of therapy are usually used as treatment options in clinical psychology instead. This can include cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, group therapy, and hypnotherapy. These types of therapies focus more on talking through one’s problems and trying to figure out better ways to handle life’s hurdles.

Where Does a Clinical Psychologist Work?

Individuals pursuing clinical psychology careers will often find that they will be able to secure employment in a number of different healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and mental health facilities.

Depending on their specialties, clinical psychologists might also be able to find employment with a number of other private and government run organizations. Universities often employ clinical psychologists, for example, to perform research and help steer eager young minds toward clinical psychology careers. Schools, police departments, and military branches are also usually in need of professional psychologists as well.

Many clinical psychologists also choose to open their own private practices and work for no other boss but themselves. Opening a private psychology practice can often be expensive and difficult but can also be very rewarding and lucrative as well.

What is the Median Annual Salary of a Clinical Psychologist?

As with many other psychology careers, the salaries of clinical psychologists vary depending on a number of factors including location, experience, popularity, etc.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the median annual salary of clinical psychologists was $67,800 in May of 2011, which amounts to an hourly wage of $35.14.

Influential Clinical Psychologists
  1. Sigmund Freud is often credited for “inventing” talk therapy and modern psychoanalysis.
  2. Albert Ellis founded Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and several cognitive behavioral therapies, which are often the most popular types of treatment in clinical psychology today.
  3. Lightner Witmer was the first psychologist to use and coin the term clinical psychology.

Additional Resources and Further Reading