Psychology, psychiatry, counseling ... with multiple fields all dealing with the goal of relieving mental distress it can be difficult to know exactly what is clinical psychology. Clinical psychology is a specialized field of psychology which features the assessment of mental disorders, the determination of a diagnosis, and the performance of treatment, such as psychotherapy, to alleviate the disturbance.
The goal of this knowledge area is to aid in the prevention or relief of psychological disturbances and enhance the well-being of the client. While clinical psychologists often treat severe psychological disorders such as manic depression or schizophrenia, they also treat people facing difficult life events such as grief at the death of a loved one or divorce. Clinical psychologists can specialize in treatment determined by the type of patient. Patient-oriented specializations include treatment of the elderly, children, or those with illnesses. Other areas of specialization can be categorized by topic. A practitioner might have special training in areas such as obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, family/marriage issues or a combination of areas.
Where is Clinical Psychology Practiced?
Practice is often performed by independent practitioners in an office setting where the psychologist meets with individual patients, families or with groups of people that share a similar problem. Clinical psychologists also can be found in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities where they coordinate with other types of doctors to treat those dealing with issues related to physical issues. Clinical psychologists also practice in mental health facilities alongside psychiatrists and counselors. Some are teachers, or both teach and practice privately or in a facility.
What are Prerequisites to Becoming a Clinical Psychologist?
Completion of one of many clinical psychology graduate programs is the most common prerequisite to becoming a clinical psychologist. Typically a clinical psychologist has obtained a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) requiring five years of full-time graduate level education, a dissertation, plus supervised experience. Practitioners can begin practice after two years of graduate study, a master's thesis, and supervised experience.
There are four main schools of practice which influence a practitioner's training and method of practice: psychodynamic, humanistic, behavioral/cognitive behavioral, family. Clinical psychology is regulated by state with limitations set according to education and training. Although requirements of licensure vary from state to state, they typically include a degree from accredited school, supervised clinical experience, and successful completion of a written and sometimes oral examination.
You may still wonder, succinctly, what is clinical psychology? Sometimes it is easier to understand what it is by understanding what it is not. While closely related to psychiatry in the goal of alleviating mental suffering, and while both psychiatrists and psychologists both perform psychotherapy, psychiatrists are medical doctors and clinical psychologists are not. Other differences can include license requirements, education, practice settings and the ability to prescribe medication which can only be done by licensed physicians or nurse practitioners. With that said, after assessment and diagnosis, a psychologist may determine that successful treatment could include medication. If this is the case, he/she will work with a psychiatrist or other medical professional to ensure the proper medication is prescribed.