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Clinical Psychology: What Is It and Where Can It Take Me?

Are you interested in human behavior? Do you like working with people? If so, clinical psychology could be the right field for you.

Clinical psychology, one of the largest specialties within psychology, offers professionals who love to discover, listen and learn the opportunity to work in various fields, including research, health or education.

What is Clinical Psychology?

A diverse practice, clinical psychology is a psychology specialty that provides ongoing, comprehensive mental and behavioral health care to an individual or families, research, consultation or training, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Professionals in clinical psychology must draw on a breadth of skills and knowledge from multiple disciplines, as the field addresses all ages, diversity, and many different symptoms. For example, a health service psychologist applies their knowledge of psychological science to support patients in overcoming depression or managing stress. Others may work with patients grappling with substance abuse or support patients with learning disabilities.

What You’ll Learn in a Clinical Psychology Degree

A field as varied as clinical psychology requires training and education that is equally varied. Regardless of the specializations professionals will pursue, having a grounded understanding of major theoretical approaches to personality development and related research lays the groundwork for additional education and specialization. Coursework will also examine emotion, motivation, memory and learning, as well as establish how to clinically assess behavioral disorders. Through elective coursework, professionals can pursue concentrations within the field and hone a variety of skills, including:

  • Diagnosing and treating mental disorders
  • Understanding childhood development and child psychology
  • Exploring the relationship between psychology and criminology
  • Understanding learning disabilities and interventions
  • Learning about counseling methods and best practices

What You Can Do With a Clinical Psychology Degree

As a clinical psychologist, you can work in a variety of settings and areas, including:

  • Administer clinical counseling, which can be practiced in hospitals, schools, counseling centers and private healthcare practices.
  • Practice in a specialized clinical practice, where you may establish a particular specialty, such as treating obesity or diabetes, anxiety, depression or schizophrenia.
  • Provide college counseling, where you would promote academic success and general wellness.
  • Design and implement behavior modification programs.
  • Train graduate students to deliver mental health or behavioral science service.
  • Administer community mental health programs.
  • Support people during personal crises, such as death or divorce.
  • Treat patients in a physical rehabilitation setting who are healing from spinal cord injuries, chronic pain, arthritis, neurological conditions or stroke.

Regardless of where you focus, you will need to keep detailed notes on your client assessment, diagnosis, therapy goals and treatments.

Clinical psychologists don’t always practice alone. In some cases, you may consult with other health and behavioral healthcare professionals to develop interventions, provide training or administer treatment. And, clinical psychologists don’t only administer treatment in one-on-one settings. Instead, they may also provide group or community education, consultation, education or intervention.

Clinical Psychology Degree Options

Students can pursue several different paths to practice in the clinical psychology field. While some general positions in the clinical psychology field may be available with a bachelor’s degree, becoming a clinical psychologist requires a graduate degree. Psychology students can choose between a PhD and a PsyD. A PhD in psychology is more popular, according to the APA, and focuses on generating research and gaining teaching experience in addition to learning applied work. A PsyD emphasizes providing psychology services rather than conducting research. Both PhDs and PsyDs can prepare students to become licensed psychologists. Most doctoral degrees take between five and seven years to complete, and some jobs may have additional internship requirements.

Ready to Pursue a Career in Clinical Psychology?

If you’re ready to pursue a career in clinical psychology, you’ll want to begin with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, according to the APA. With a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology with a Concentration in Clinical Psychology from Florida Tech, you will be equipped to explore a career path in clinical psychology, as well as prepare for clinical psychology graduate studies.

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