What is Clinical Psychology?

A person who is considering earning a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate in psychology may want to know about clinical psychology. Knowing this is important for choosing a major and a concentration within that major. Once a person understands what clinical psychology is, they can decide for themselves if what the career involves is well-suited to their strengths, aptitude and set of skills.

Clinical Psychology Is a Specialty of Psychology

Psychology has many specialties, and clinical practice is one. Clinical psychology involves providing ongoing and comprehensive mental and behavioral healthcare to individuals and families. It also involves consulting with agencies and communities. Some clinical psychologists engage in a lot of research, training or education. With experience, clinical psychologists may supervise new therapists, counselors, social workers and psychology interns who are earning their clinical practice hours that are required for state licensure.

Scope of Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology has a vast scope. A big part of what clinical psychology involves is understanding of psychopathology and the available interventions and treatments for patients with a mental health, behavioral or emotional disorder. Another aspect of clinical psychology is understanding how mental health disorders develop, what their symptoms are and how they change across the human lifespan. Assessment of individuals is also within the scope of clinical psychology. This includes devising and implementing personality tests or using established tests and measuring a person’s results against the standardized answers. Clinical psychology includes consulting with other healthcare professionals, law enforcement and social workers, especially in the case of violent individuals or suicidal ideation. Finally, there is a research component to clinical psychology that involves reviewing the current knowledge, conducting studies or experiments and analyzing and publishing their results.

Populations and Problems Addressed by Clinical Psychology

The populations served by clinical psychology include individuals and families from all ethnic, racial, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds. Clinical psychology also serves groups and communities. The types of problems addressed by clinical psychology include intellectual disabilities, behavioral disorders, emotional problems, and social and psychological maladjustment. Clinical psychology also addresses issues ranging from personal stress to severe psychosis. In the case of mental health disorders, a psychologist may work alongside of a psychiatrist, especially in places that do not allow a psychologist to prescribe medications or admit patients to hospitals. Clinical psychology addresses all of these issues across the entire human lifespan.

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Procedures and Activities Related to the Practice of Clinical Psychology

According to the American Psychological Association, there are several procedures and activities that are critical to the practice of clinical psychology. One is assessment, which includes interviewing patients and assessing their behaviors. Clinical psychology also includes conducting psychological tests and analyzing or interpreting the results. Intervention services, including primary, secondary and tertiary for individuals, families and groups are also part of clinical psychology. Consultation with other healthcare and social work professionals and research are also included in clinical psychology activities.

Familiarity with the different types of psychology helps a person make an informed decision about which courses to take and which major to choose. This knowledge is also helpful when deciding on a thesis or dissertation topic for completion of a degree. Knowing about what is clinical psychology could help a person decide which career path they would like to take after earning a psychology degree.

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