Stress, anxiety and other emotional problems affect many people during their personal and professional lives. While emotional turmoil may seem inevitable at times, clinical psychologists seek to help people deal with such problems as they arise.
A rewarding career that focuses on the health and well-being of patients of all ages, clinical psychology may be an appealing option for students interested in mental health, therapy or the provision of direct patient care.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment growth of 11% from 2012 to 2022 for the category of professionals that includes clinical psychologists. This rate of growth reflects an increased interest in the potential of psychologists to assess and treat common disorders, including depression, stress and addiction. As the population continues to age, demand is expected to grow for psychologists who specialize in treating seniors who have age-related anxieties.
Clinical psychologists are employed to help people understand and deal with mental, emotional or behavioral disorders. In many cases, a clinical psychologist’s role will involve speaking with clients to help them understand the perceived cause of an ailment. Some clinical psychologists may favor the use of diagnostic tests, while others may favor analysis of a particular point in a patient’s life. Clinical psychologists may also specialize in working with specific groups of people, such as children, the elderly, couples or military veterans.
After diagnosing a patient, the next step is to develop and recommend a suitable course of treatment. In most states, clinical psychologists are not authorized to prescribe medication. If a clinician decides that a prescription is warranted, patients may be referred to practicing psychiatrists for further diagnosis. In other cases, clinical psychologists may design a process of behavior modifications or exercises to help patients deal with issues.
Many clinical psychologists are in private practice and set their own work schedules, which may include after-hours and weekend appointments. Other clinical psychologists are employed by hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities.
The average annual salary for the category of professionals that includes clinical psychologists, and counseling and school psychologists was $72,210 as of May 2013, the BLS reports. The national average for the top 10% of earners was more than $112,000.
Employment prospects and salary ranges typically vary based on an individual’s work history and educational qualifications, among other factors.
Prospective students can take a step on the path toward a clinical psychology career by enrolling in an undergraduate program such as a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology with a concentration in Clinical Psychology.
Such programs should prepare students to:
Upon completing a bachelor’s degree, students will likely need to work toward a doctoral degree in order to practice as a clinical psychologist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes two options for doctoral-level studies: a PhD in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree.
Beyond formal educational qualifications, clinical psychologists typically require a license to practice professionally. While requirements vary among states, most licensure programs require a doctoral degree in psychology, an internship, several years of professional experience and a passing grade on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), according to the BLS.
The field of clinical psychology can accommodate individuals with a strong interest in research as well as those who wish to spend most of their time in clinical practice. Fundamentally, it is a profession focused on direct patient care. Clinical psychologists must be able to listen and make recommendations, and an effective clinician is likely to be empathetic and patient.
If you enjoy the prospect of working closely with people on sensitive issues and helping them process and deal with short- and long-term problems in their lives, a career as a clinical psychologist may be an excellent choice.