Clinical psychology incorporates the study of human behavior, including biological, emotional and intellectual functions, in order to promote psychological well-being and treat disorders in patients of all ages.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), child psychologists participate in a range of activities, including evaluation, research, consultation, teaching and policy development. Clinical psychology professionals work in private practice, healthcare facilities, government agencies, mental health centers, and schools and universities, among other settings. They may work alone or with other providers, such as social workers and medical staff.
Several factors are helping to drive demand for clinical psychologists, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. These include the aging of the nation’s population as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age and rising numbers of military veterans who require post-deployment services.
The Role of a Clinical Psychologist
A clinical psychologist evaluates and diagnoses individuals with mental, behavioral or emotional disorders, using tools such as observation, interviews, and aptitude and psychological assessments. They also may work with groups, such as families, organizations and patients with similar needs.
They may help people manage and live with medical conditions such as cancer or chronic pain, provide guidance for people who have relationship difficulties and guide caregivers in dealing with loved ones who are facing challenges.
Depending on their specialty, the work of clinical psychologists can focus on prevention and early intervention in minor issues of maladjustment or on managing care for individuals who require in-patient treatment. Interventions are designed to prevent, treat and correct personality disturbances, psychopathology, emotional issues and other underlying problems that cause distress or dysfunction.
“The goal of intervention is to promote satisfaction, adaptation, social order, and health,” according to the APA’s Society of Clinical Psychology.
Clinical psychologists may conduct research, develop programs and evaluation methods, provide consulting services and teach at the postsecondary level. Often, they perform a combination of these functions during their careers.
Career Outlook and Salary Range for Clinical Psychologists
Employment of clinical psychologists nationwide is projected to grow by 19% through 2024, as individuals seek counseling for family and marriage problems, addiction, depression and other mental health-related issues, the BLS reports.
In May 2016, the median annual wage of professionals in the category that includes clinical psychologists was $73,270, according to the BLS. Salary ranges and employment opportunities vary based on factors such as regional market conditions, and a candidate’s educational qualifications and work experience.
After attaining a psychology degree, prospective clinical psychologists typically work toward a doctorate in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) from an accredited program. Coursework includes the study of psychopathology and personality, the APA notes.
A state license is required to practice as a clinical psychologist, and candidates for licensure typically must have completed an internship, passed an exam and obtained a year or two of professional experience. Practitioners also may purse certification in specialty fields through the American Board of Professional Psychology.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies several core attributes of clinical psychologists – they should be able to analyze information, listen attentively, communicate clearly and observe closely.