What is Clinical Psychology?

Interpreting clinical psychology

A licensed clinical psychologist is a doctoral level clinician who provides comprehensive mental health and behavioral care to individuals, couples and families.  Clinical psychology contains two main educational degrees, including the Ph.D. and the Psy.D.  The Ph.D. is more research oriented, where the Psy.D. in clinical psychology is more clinically based and can prepare one for clinical practice. 

Clinical psychologists are trained in the assessment and treatment of psychiatric and mental health problems.  Treatment can address anything from minor/adjustment issues to serious psychopathology and those with severe impairment in functioning or distress.  Clinical psychologists provide services to all ages, races, ethnicities and cultures, as mental health issues and psychology can affect everyone.  Individuals from all socioeconomic statuses are also treated by clinical psychologists.

Clinical psychologists can provide various job roles in addition to the main focus of providing therapy, which often sets them apart from other mental health providers. 

These roles include:

  • Assessment, Diagnosis and Treatment of Psychological Disorders
  • Psychological Testing
  • Teaching and Education
  • Consultation
  • Supervision
  • Testimony in Legal Proceedings
  • Research
  • Program Development

In terms of providing ethical care to patients, clinical psychologists must adhere to the American Psychological Association (APA) Ethics Code, which provides standards of professional conduct and guidelines for psychologists.  The ethics code includes both aspirational and ethical standards and helps promote the highest ethical measures of psychology for psychologists to follow. 

Clinical psychologists can work in a variety of settings, including but not limited to, medical settings, private practice, academic positions in schools, hospitals, and prisons.  Clinical psychology can help individuals address problems that may be intellectual, academic, cognitive, emotional or psychological, or behavioral.  Often they help people overcome emotional difficulties, which then can positively influence other areas of functioning (such as school performance, work, relationships, mood, etc.).  Clinical psychologists typically work to decrease distress and increase emotional wellbeing and overall quality of life in their patients.