How to Become a Clinical Psychologist

One of the most popular branches of psychology is clinical psychology. A very broad category, those who work in the field aim to diagnose and treat people suffering from chronic emotional distress or disorders. Common conditions that require treatment by clinical psychologists include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and even learning disabilities.

Becoming a clinical psychologist is a lengthy process but is necessary for the degree of importance their work holds and how powerful a psychologist can be on someone’s life, especially those in need of psychological aid. A day in the life of a clinical psychologist might include identifying patient’s problems by utilizing different accepted techniques. They may interview their patients, order tests, or simply observe their behavior. The psychologist then diagnoses the patient according to how they score tests or how their behavior matches what the psychologist is trained to recognize. With the patient’s goals and lifestyle in mind, the psychologist will work with them to create a program or plan on how to combat and overcome their diagnosis.

A huge part of being a clinical psychologist is keeping up with measuring the successfulness of the program their patients are on. By observing their progress, the psychologist can adjust or change the program completely, keeping the health and safety of the patient as a number one priority. As outlined by All Psychology Schools’ article “Clinical Psychology Job: What You’ll Do” , their role includes the following:

  • Identifying psychological, emotional or behavioral problems
  • Diagnosing psychological, emotional or behavioral problems
  • Developing and executing a treatment plan along with a therapeutic process
  • Helping clients define their goals and an action plan to achieve personal, social, educational, and career related goals through development and adjustment
  • Monitor the patient’s progress through sessions or meetings held regularly
  • Teach classes
  • Conduct research and publish findings for others in the field to utilize

In order to become a clinical psychologist, you need to earn a four-year undergraduate degree as the first step in the process. There’s no specific degree you need to receive to become a clinical psychologist, but something in the realm of psychology, sociology, or education would best prepare you for what you’re going to learn in graduate school.

After you obtain your four-year graduate degree, you’re going to have to go back to school for your Master’s Degree. This could take anywhere from one to two years. For the most earning potential and career opportunities, you may want to consider continuing your education to get your doctorate degree. The two doctorate degrees that are available include a PhD in Psychology, which focuses mainly on science and the research behind in the field; or a PsyD, which focuses more on clinical work.

Doctoral degrees in this field can take anywhere from 5 to 6 years to complete and then require further internships or residency training. It’s important that clinical psychologists are exposed to many different diagnoses and are able to treat people of different backgrounds, situations, and goals. Residency programs could take up to 3 extra years to complete, but the experience gained is invaluable.

Some of the most common workplaces for clinical psychologists include private practices, their own firm, hospitals, schools, colleges, rehab facilities, and community centers. The more experience you obtain through internships, residency programs, and working in different sectors, the more opportunity you have to advance your career in any direction you enjoy. There is considerable competition in the field, so it’s important to have an idea of what type of institution you’re going to want to work in post completing all of your necessary education and certifications. This way, you can gain the knowledge through outside experience in those institutions particularly. Currently, organizational psychologists make the most compared to general psychologists and psychologists that work at schools, but creating your own practice is always a way to make more money and help more people.

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