5 Career Settings for a Clinical Psychologist

career opportunities for a clinical psychologist

5 Career Opportunities for a Clinical Psychologist

  • Clinical Setting
  • Sports Therapy Setting
  • Military Setting
  • Legal Setting
  • Research Facility

People who are considering a career in psychology discover there are two primary branches of the profession: clinical and counseling. While the distinctions between the two were straightforward at first, they blurred over time. In the strictest sense, counseling psychology deals with the temporary problems of The otherwise healthy, while clinical psychology addresses psychopathology. The “territory” of clinical psychologists has some common ground with psychiatry. Counseling psychologists often work with people needing help in choosing areas of study, dealing with difficult classes, finding employment, making career decisions and succeeding in the workplace in universities and industry. There is a lot of overlap, but the fundamental difference between the two branches of psychology is that counseling psychologists work with less serious conditions and often address populations. Clinical psychologists work with pathology and with individuals. While this article does not address counseling psychology, it does give clearer focus about careers in clinical psychology.

When we hear the title “clinical psychologist” we tend to picture a psychologist working in a clinical setting, such as a hospital or clinic, yet there are other career settings in clinical psychology. Clinical psychologists have been in demand in recent years because more people are choosing to seek help for their problems. Additionally, employers, schools and government agencies are also using clinical psychologists to help their employees or students work through their problems. Here are 5 career settings in clinical psychology.

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Clinical Setting

what does a clinical psychologist do

Clinical psychologists are highly-trained professionals who may be self-employed or may work in hospitals, clinics or mental health facilities. They diagnose and treat patients with emotional, mental and behavioral disorders. Their patients may have issues resulting from short-term persona issues to serious, chronic conditions. The treatment that clinical psychologists provide depends on the problem and the patient. Clinical psychologists provide diagnostic tests, design behavior modification programs and consult with other health professionals to discuss the best treatment for the problems. They work with individuals, couples and groups. In some states, they can prescribe medication.

Clinical psychologists often work on treatment teams as consultants. They can be found in facilities for recovery from substance abuse, in physical rehabilitation facilities and facilities for long-term care. They work with hospice teams helping families and patients deal with loss. In short, their scope of operation in the clinical setting may be a facility or anywhere clients need assistance in dealing with serious life issues.

According to an article on the APA.org website, clinical psychologists administer tests and make assessments the way medical doctors perform diagnostic tests. Some of these include surveys and informal tests, and some are standardized tests that measure identified behavioral or emotional issues. An employee, for instance, who is consistently at odds with peers may be found to have anger issues. Another, who has trouble maintaining concentration, may be found to have a traumatic brain injury. Testing of a child with behavioral issues in school may reveal that he or she has a learning disability. Testing and assessment are tools clinical psychologists use in diagnosing their own clients or in advising an organization or treatment team.

Sports Therapy Setting

sports psychologist

With the wide emphasis on exercise and sporting events today, sports psychologists are widely used to help athletes deal with not just physical but also emotional and mental issues. Sports psychology involves extensive training and education because it involves various other fields, including kinesiology, biomechanics and general psychology. Sporting psychologists assess the relationship between human psychology and athletic performance and use their knowledge to help enhance the athlete’s performance. They work one-on-one with the athlete and provide them with counseling and therapy when needed.

What does therapy and counseling to help an athlete involve? There are five “key principles” in sports What does therapy and counseling to help an athlete involve? There are five “key principles” in sports psychology.

• Goal Setting- This means helping athletes have realistic expectations of their abilities and performance
• Visualization- This is the ability to “rehearse” an event or activity
• Self-talk and confidence- There is an adage that says “ as you think, so shall you be.” Self-talk is the ability to create an athlete’s attitude of confidence and success by the message he (or she)sends to himself.
• Relaxation and concentration- This involves teaching athletes to shut out external pressures and environments.
• Coping with injury- Sometimes athletes can return to their sport by physical therapy and with time. Sometimes they lose the ability to participate at all. Both of these eventualities can involve psychological intervention.

An example of an athlete who benefitted from the intervention of a sports psychologist is Lance Armstrong. In the middle of a promising cycling career, he dealt with cancer. He went from someone known the world over for his success in his sport to someone who was told he might not survive a year. He details his struggles in his book “It’s Not About the Bike.”

Some other issues sports psychologists deal with are burnout, pathological urges to exercise and eating disorders. Because things that affect individuals also impact teams, sports psychologist may work for professional sport franchises. Olympic teams hire sports psychologists as well. These professionals may spend 100 days a year traveling with the team to various training camps and matches prior to the games. For the Tokyo Olympics, for instance, the anxiety of whether there would even be an Olympics caused some trauma. Athletes accustomed to having their families with them as well as trainers and psychologists had to adjust to the feeling of “going it on their own.” These factors affect performance. Sports psychologists also help teams deal with the different personalities of team members and ego problems.

Military Setting

military clinical psychologist

Providing months and years of active military service can be very hard not just on the enlisted person but also on their loved ones. Recent studies have shown that most enlisted women and men are affected by some kind of emotional or mental disorder. Whether it’s actually being part of the military, serving in a combat zone, or just being separated from family, the military life can be very hard on people, and they often are in need of the services provided by a military psychologist. The military psychologist may have his or her own practice or may work on base. They evaluate military personnel and their families, evaluate and treat their issues and offer counseling. Each branch of the military usually has its own psychologist available.

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was first diagnosed in 1980 but was documented even in the Civil War. Early on, it was called shell-shock, combat exhaustion or some other term. According to a government document about the disorder, 15 percent of Viet Nam veterans experienced PTSD whether they saw combat or not. For those who were in war zones, however, the percentage experiencing PTSD was more than 35 percent. Soldiers returning from the Persian Gulf War saw similar rates, but they increased over time. The symptoms vary, but include depression, substance abuse and flashbacks. Clinical psychologists help vets and their families deal with these symptoms and the behaviors they may cause. They also work with the military branches to prevent PTSD by educating and preparing recruits for the realities of combat in a process termed “stress inoculation.”

Other Issues

Military personnel also may face issues with acceptance and inclusion of LBGTQ+, transgender or other populations. Female soldiers often deal with prejudices and expectations that lead to sexual assaults and loss of respect.

Families struggle with stress accumulation, attachment disorders that rise out of frequent moving, single parenting, adjusting to different family organization when a different parent steps into the “head-of-the-family” role and other issues. Children also may need help adjusting to the absence, injury or death of a family member in the military.

As in other areas of clinical psychology, the psychologist often functions as a member of a team to address these needs. Sometimes this includes advocacy with civilian or military officials. It may mean working with caseworkers to help a returning service person find employment, housing and medical services.

Legal Setting

The legal field is yet another of the many career settings in clinical psychology. The fields of law and psychology often intertwine because they apply aspects of both fields to answer questions or deal with issues related to the legal system. Clinical psychologists working in a legal setting may contribute to various areas within a legal system, including public policies, research, clinical practice and training. Mental health professionals have been involved with the legal system for many years, which is the main reason why the American Board of Forensic Psychology was established. There are several subspecialties within the legal area of clinical psychology.

  • Clinical-forensic psychologist – This area of clinical psychology has become popular with the emergence of television drama featuring teams of crime-fighting psychologists. That role is obviously fictionalized. Real-life psychologists in forensics “apply their clinical specialties to the legal arena,” according to the American Psychological Association. They may serve as advisors or witnesses in trials, making recommendations about client competency, sentencing or other matters. They may also analyze crime scenes to discover pertinent evidence and create criminal profiles that allow law enforcement to narrow down suspect lists. Sometimes they make recommendations about the construction of new correction facilities. Recalling the definition of this branch of psychology involves using psychology specializations in the legal arena, it should come as no surprise that they also work in civil matters and make recommendations on tings such as child custody, according to the website psychology.org.
  • Developmental psychologist- These psychologists study the process of life from conception through death. Among their other tasks, they may test children for developmental delays or disabilities that impact their understanding of criminal behavior. Since it has been found that elderly witnesses differ from younger ones in perception and in cognition, developmental psychologists may play a role in witness selection.
  • Social psychologists- Social psychologists study human social systems to get insight into behavior. That insight helps them advise industry on training programs for employees, help governmental agencies draft policies and create marketing strategies, among other tasks, but it is also valuable in forensics. Research into gang behavior, for instance helps law enforcement to understand and predict some gang behavior. It is estimated that up to ten percent of youth is involved in gang activity. Social psychologists can also help develop educational programs and interventions that may prevent gang-related crime.
  • Cognitive psychologist- These psychologists study cognition and the learning process. Their research helps legal experts understand things like why eye-witnesses to crimes may be unreliable, why biases occur and how crime scenes might be interpreted differently.
  • Community psychologist- Community psychologists study social systems and help plan programs such as after-school recreation to counter a high juvenile crime rate. They may develop “re-entry” programs for people in substance abuse facilities or advise governmental agencies in policy-making. Their duties are varied.

Research Facility

Psychologists who work in research facilities study different aspects of behavior and relationships to develop new insights and to explain phenomena.

Doctoral degrees in clinical psychology are consist of either a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or a Ph.D. in Psychology. Graduates of the Psy.D. program generally find work in a clinical setting while graduates of the Ph.D. program choose careers in research. Clinical psychologists are often thought of working in a clinical or medical setting visiting with patients although much of their work involves research. Clinical psychology research is every bit as important for the health and well-being of our nation as medical research or actual medical practice. Medical researchers study ways to treat a patient with physical issues, and clinical psychology researchers research studies to treat not only patients but also families, couples and communities with psychological issues. Their work involves assessing a patient, acknowledging the patient’s needs and researching the best way to treat him or her.

Careers in clinical psychology are not a “one-and-done” proposition. Years are invested in earning a doctoral degree, but, as in any research-based profession, advances make continuing education necessary. Additionally, specializations and certifications are important to the profession. Clinical psychology is a profession of constant upgrading and improvement, of learning new theories and new methodologies.

The 2016-2026 decade is expected to offer a job growth of 14 percent for clinical psychologists according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The fact that the services of clinical psychologists are needed in almost every area of our lives is what keeps this career field growing. Learning about the various career settings in clinical psychology make it easier for aspiring clinical psychologists to choose the area they’ll find most rewarding and fulfilling.

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