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Clinical Psychologist

Learn how to become a Clinical Psychologist and why you might want to

clinical psychologist

One of the greatest gifts in working as a clinical psychologist is the number of available career options, options that might not seem readily apparent when working through the classes, papers, and tests of graduate school, but options that become reality after receiving a master’s or doctorate, and completing the requisite licensing requirements.

Simplyhired.com, a job search engine, confirms the positive outlook for the number of clinical psychology positions. The website reports that from August 1, 2008 to February 28, 2010, clinical psychologist jobs increased by 26%. This is an especially inspiring statistic since during those same months, the nation experienced one of the worse economic periods in history, a period called the “Great Recession” by some economists.

Many credit the recession itself for causing people to seek the services of clinical psychologists. Job losses and economic hardships have caused stress and distress among many. These stresses affect all significant relationships in an individual’s life, and also the ability to cope with major losses and changes.

Others cite two ongoing wars over the past 8 years and the number of service members, their spouses, and families as needing help in adjusting to the consequences of these wars.

Still others point to the increases in incarcerated individuals. In his award-winning essay “A Hive of Mysterious Danger,” Joseph Murtagh reported that over the past 30 years, the U.S. prison population has grown from about 200,000 to 2.3 million -  a number “roughly equivalent to the populations of Rhode Island, Wyoming, and Delaware combined.”

Murtagh, who taught an English class at the Auburn Correctional Facility in upstate New York, and whose essay first appeared in “The Missouri Review,” said that many in the U.S. often overlook the number of people prisons employ - 800 alone at Auburn.

What are the differences between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D.?

In most cases, clients seeking psychotherapy from a clinical psychologist would not know or care about the differences between academic programs offering either a Psy.D. or Ph.D.

Clients seek effective therapeutic care, care that helps them correct or mediate dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors, and clinicians trained in both degree-models provide effective, professional, and proven psychological services... Read more about Psy.D. vs. Ph.D.

In addition to the guards, haircutters, and teachers, many of those employed at correctional facilities are psychologists, social workers, and counselors. This doesn’t include the numbers of children, spouses, friends, and other family members affected by one prisoner’s imprisonment, necessitating even more trained psychologists to provide psychotherapy. Nor do the numbers reflect the victims of the crimes committed by the prisoners, those who also require psychotherapy to cope with and manage the harmful effects of becoming victims.

Where are clinical psychologists needed?

In short, clinical psychologists are needed to help a vast number of individuals, in a large number of U.S. facilities and organizations. Here’s a list of some of the organizations and industries that employ clinical psychologists:

  • Individual and group practices
  • Mental health and counseling centers and organizations
  • Healthcare organizations such as hospital and clinics
  • Elementary, junior high and high schools
  • Universities and colleges
  • Correctional institutions and halfway houses
  • Military and veterans hospitals, clinics, bases and other organizations
  • Federal government and state agencies

What do clinical psychologists do?

Just as a large number of positions exist for clinical psychologists across a broad range of organizations, these positions require an equally large number of diverse duties and responsibilities. However, most of these positions require a strong component of the following:

Assessment and diagnosis

To properly assess individuals for a range of mental illnesses, developmental psychopathology, cognitive and neurodevelopmental disorders, and maladaptive interpersonal behaviors, clinical psychologists must understand the empirical research on measurement and evaluation. In addition, they must be able to synthesize this large amount of research data, using the appropriate testing instruments for their client population.

Clinical psychologists also must be able to access the correct decision-making models in order to apply a diagnosis, using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-R). After diagnosing clients, they recommend a preferred course of treatment to other psychology professionals, or apply and administer the treatment plan themselves.

Additionally, clinical psychologists must be able to accurately assess the effectiveness of specific psychological techniques and interventions used in psychotherapy. These assessments are crucial for the healing of current and future clients.

Conduct psychotherapy

Psychotherapists use a number of techniques and interventions to treat a range of illnesses, illnesses often resulting from dysfunctional thoughts or cognitions, and displayed through harmful or distressing behaviors. Sometimes these dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors affect physical health as well, as many stress-related illnesses are now linked to maladaptive mental health disorders.

Usually in graduate school, clinical psychology students gravitate toward one of the four main psychological frameworks, moving toward the theories and orientations for treatment that the framework supports. (See Clinical Psychology Research for more information about these frameworks).

But clinical psychology students also explore the theories of each framework, acquainting themselves with all the available treatment options, and the research supporting the effectiveness of one approach over another for specific conditions. This more integrative approach to psychotherapy helps graduates who desire a more general position after graduation, positions that require an understanding of all available modalities, and the ability to administer them depending on the client population.

Specific careers

Many clinical psychologists go into private practice, either solely or with a group of other psychologists. In 2001, the American Psychological Association estimated that about 65% were working in some type of private practice. Some of these practices specialize in one type of disorder, or psychological framework.

For example, some private practices form around psychotherapists adhering to the psychodynamic framework, a framework stemming from Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic approach. Similar practices are established with humanistic psychologists, or those who specialize in family systems or cognitive-behavioral therapies. However, some practices employ psychologists regardless of their specialty, creating a facility that offers many different approaches and orientations for a wide range of problems.

For those working in medical facilities and other organizations, a clinical psychology career depends on the client population. For instance, a clinical psychologist working for a children’s hospital will need in-depth knowledge of neurodevelopmental disorders and psychopathologies related to childhood and adolescence. (see Adolescence Developmental Psychology).

Similarly those working for the court system as clinical forensic psychologists must understand how legal and criminal justice issues intersect with psychological theories and understanding. Forensic psychologists must also have in-depth knowledge of psychological criminal testing and evaluation methodologies.

And most clinical sports psychologists must know and be able to teach clients specific solution-based solutions, most often based on the cognitive-behavioral framework that specializes in quick, goal-directed interventions.

In summary, the industry or facility where a clinical psychology works will determine the type of specialized psychological theories and skills he or she applies and uses to help people heal and lead more functional lives.

Examples of titles of clinical psychologists:

  • Child Psychologist
  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Senior Psychologist in hospital setting
  • Domestic Violence Psychologist
  • Child Abuse psychologist
  • Health Psychologist
  • Military Psychologist
  • Prison Psychologist
  • Substance Abuse Psychologist
  • Mood Disorder Psychologist
  • Sports Psychologist
  • Research Psychologist
  • Professor of Psychology

How to become a clinical psychologist

To practice as a clinical psychologist, every state requires licensing. For more information on the type of degree required for this career, contact schools offering master’s degree programs in clinical psychology or doctorate programs in clinical psychology. These schools can help you explore all the available career paths for clinical psychology professionals.

Sample Job Listing For a Clinical Psychologist in a Children’s Hospital

Job title: Clinical Psychologist (Child & Adolescent)
Requirements:

  • Doctorate degree in psychology with specialization in children and adolescents.
  • Completion of supervised internship; preferably post-doctoral training in child psychology.

Responsibilities:

Provide traditional behavioral health services for children, adolescents and families. These services include psychological assessment, diagnostic, and treatment for a variety of disorders, including:

Candidates should have a knowledge of neuropsychological testing/assessments.

Additional qualifications

  • Current with timely psychological research on the assessment and diagnosis of children and adolescents, as well as abuse and trauma literature.
  • Excellent leadership skills. Ability to communicate both in written form and orally with a multidisciplinary team of professionals, giving direction, and documenting interventions, treatments, and outcomes.
Clinical Psychology Schools & Colleges
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            University of Phoenix , Online (campus option available)
            • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
            • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
            • Flexible start date and class schedules.
            • Locations nationwide and online options.
            • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
            • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
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            • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
            • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
            • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
            • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
            • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
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            • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
            • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
            • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
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            • Average class size is 25, allowing for more one-on-one time with instructors.
            • Has a 97% employment rate among available graduates.
            • All  graduates receive Lifetime Employment  Assistance—free and forever.
            • Michigan's largest independent college.
            • Most instructors are working professionals in the fields they teach.
            • Programs are continuously updated to ensure classes are career-relevant and in sync with what's needed in the industry
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            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
            • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
            • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
            • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
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            • Its Fast Track program enables qualified students to save up to 30% on tuition and graduate up to 30% faster.
            • Its online MBA program was named by the International Graduate Forum as a top 10 Online MBA Program in 2012.
            • Listed as a military friendly school by G.I. Jobs magazine in 2014.
            • Lets students watch, view, read, or hear content through its program, My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.).
            • Has additional campus locations near military bases in Colorado Springs and Denver.
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            Argosy University , Online (campus option available)
            • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, publishers of G.I. Jobs®.
            • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
            • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
            • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
            • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
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            The Chicago School of Professional Psychology , Online (campus option available)
            • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
            • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
            • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities ( beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities. 
            • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
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            • Online school designated as a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
            • Commited more than $60 million in tuition savings in 2015 through scholarships.
            • Active-duty military, veterans, and Veteran’s Administration employees can save 15% on tuition.
            • Offers 24/7 student services, including financial aid help, course registration, and career counseling.
            • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
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            • Several institutional scholarship opportunities are available to students who qualify.
            • Features several learning model options, including online, residency, and hybrid options.
            • Offers graduate degree programs in organizational leadership, mind-body medicine, psychology and human science.
            • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
            • Three teaching locations in Seattle, Washington and Houston, Texas, with the university headquarters located in San Francisco, California.
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