It is advisable for individuals with mental, emotional or behavioral disorders to seek the services of a clinical psychologist — a medical specialist responsible for diagnosis and treatment of such disorders. Such an individual may have expertise in one of the various areas of specialization in psychology, including child psychology, neuropsychology, geropsychology and health psychology.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an individual must obtain a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as psychology and clinical psychology; complete additional studies, which involve acquiring a master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical medicine; and possess essential job skills, including proper listening, patience and good problem-solving skills.
Although the duties of the psychologist vary with his area of specialization, irrespective of whether he is a private or an employed medical practitioner, his three main duties include assessing patients’ conditions, diagnosing patients’ disorders and suggesting suitable treatment plans for patients.
Assessment of the Patients’ Conditions
To assess a patient, a clinical psychologist seeks information from the patient himself, his spouse, or relatives. As an interviewer, he needs to communicate well with the patient so that the patient can be free to open up his mind and provide the necessary information. Patience is also an important skill during the interview since some patients may be slow in speech or may need to be persuaded for a long time before giving the information. Out of the information retrieved from the patient, his spouse or relatives, the psychologist is able to learn the patient’s problem. Besides interviewing the patient, the psychologist can observe the patient’s actions to determine his problem. Referring to the patient’s medical history or health record is also another way of obtaining the information about the patient.
Diagnosing the Patient’s Conditions
The diagnosis follows the assessment and involves analyzing the information the psychologist collected from the patient during the assessment, and applying relevant diagnostic techniques to determine the exact condition the patient suffers from. One such applicable technique is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-IV-R.
Treatment recommendation typically comes after the diagnosis and involves choosing a suitable treatment plan based on the results of the diagnosis. The psychologist may decide to implement the treatment plan himself or refer the patient to another doctor, who is more specialized in dealing with the condition in question. Referral is also necessary if the patient’s condition is severe. Since clinical psychology does not involve administering medications to patients, the psychologist can only administer treatments, such as family therapy, behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy, which involve counseling the patients, in order to make their condition better. However, referring patients to doctors who are qualified to administer medication treatments is a responsibility of the psychologist.
In summary, clinical psychology is one of the various branches of psychology that aims at helping patients with mental, emotional and psychological disorders better their condition. The disorders that the psychologist addresses include substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety and depression. Depending with the specialty he possesses, a clinical psychologist can render services in various institutions, including hospitals, mental health facilities, police departments, military branches and universities, or may decide to practice his profession privately.