What Does A Clinical Psychologist Do?

"I am planning to study to become a psychologist. I want to focus on the clinical aspect so I can help people with their psychological problems. I want to learn more information about the responsibilities of clinical psychologists. What do they do?"

asked by Brian E. from Mankato, Minnesota

Clinical psychologists work to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who are suffering from mental, emotional and behavioral problems. They help those with depression, eating disorders, anxiety attacks, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorders and children with learning disabilities. They do work with patients of all ages but there are clinical psychologists who choose to specialize only on a particular field.

Some clinical psychologists may work only with children while others may work only with the senior population. They may opt to become health psychologists who study the effect of psychological factors to that of health and sickness.

They also teach clients how to live better and cope with such problems as divorce, drug abuse and teenage pregnancies. Other clinical psychologists may be more interested in focusing their practice on those suffering from brain injury.

Clinical psychologists typically start their meetings with clients by asking them questions. The interview gives them a background of these clients and the issues that they are facing. They may even talk with the close friends and relatives of the patient so they can glean more insights about their client’s behavior. In the course of the interview, they also take down notes on the patient’s behavior as part of their assessment process.

They would then subject the patients to some diagnostic tests so that they can come up with a diagnosis of the condition. These tests can include personality, intelligence and psychological tests. After determining what the problem is, they would then suggest psychotherapy and/or behavior modification programs to help patients manage and ultimately treat the condition. If they feel that another healthcare professional can better treat the patient, they would refer their clients to them. Psychotherapy sessions can be done individually or with a group.

Most states don’t allow clinical psychologists to prescribe medication to their clients so they have to work with other physicians especially when they feel that their patients need to take prescription drugs. As of the moment, only psychologists in Louisiana and New Mexico can give prescriptions so in the other states that don’t, psychologists have to refer patients to psychiatrists and medical doctors.

Aside from seeing patients and guiding them in their psychotherapy sessions, clinical psychologists also have to keep records of their assessment, diagnoses and treatment goals of their clients. These are necessary not only for them to monitor the progress of their clients but to support insurance claims and billing as well.

Clinical psychologists can work in their own private practices. They may also be employed by hospitals, schools, private companies and government agencies. Those who work with institutions have full-time schedules during regular business hours while those who have their own private practice may have more flexible work schedules.

Career Spotlight: Clinical Psychologist

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