Psychology Jobs > Clinical Psychologist

Becoming a clinical psychologist can be a very rewarding experience. As a clinical psychologist, you will have a number of different opportunities to work in different settings and with different clients. You can decide to focus on working with clients ranging from young children all the way up to senior citizens as well as specializing on specific problem area.

Usually a clinical psychologist will choose one area or type of client to work with and will usually operate from a specific therapeutic framework. For example, one person may choose to work with children in a school setting while another person may choose to work with prison inmates.

What Does A Clinical Psychologist Do?

A clinical psychologist is concerned with helping people learn how to deal with problems affecting their ability to deal with every day life. In order to do this, a clinical psychologist needs a number of different skills, which depend on the clients and work environment. Even though different skills may be needed to deal with these problems there are some general skills that are applicable to all clinical psychology jobs. These basic skills will be used regardless of whether the clinical psychologist is dealing with people suffering from any number of mental illnesses, psychiatric problems or other abnormal behavior.


A clinical psychologist needs to be able to assess a person's difficulty in order to formulate a plan of treatment. These difficulties may range from mental illness, developmental difficulties or even neuropsychological problems. The clinical psychologist needs to be familiar with various assessment techniques as well as keep up with any new developments in the area of assessment. In order to make an assessment of a client, the clinical psychologist will use a variety of tests, such as intelligence and achievement tests, in addition to client interviews, medical record reviews and clinical observations.

Once the assessment is completed, the clinical psychologist may decide to use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) to come up with a diagnosis although this is not always necessary. The use of the DSM-IV depends on the presenting problem, the preferred method of treatment used by the clinical psychologist as well as the reasons for the client coming to see a psychologist. If there is a court ordered treatment, then there may need to be a diagnosis from the DSM-IV but if a client enters treatment voluntarily, the clinical psychologist may forego the use of the DSM-IV.


clinical psychologist job Once the clinical psychologist has identified the problems facing a client, the next step is to formulate a treatment plan. There are a number of different methods to treat clients, and the clinical psychologist has usually found one method that suits his or her needs and temperament the best. This does not mean that a person can not use different methods but for the most part a person will work within one psychological framework.

Psychodynamic Therapy: This approach developed from the work of Sigmund Freud and mainly focuses on the unconscious. With this approach, the clinical psychologist helps the client understand the reasons for the troublesome behavior and how incidents in the client's early life influence the behaviors that are occurring now.

Once a client gains understanding of why the behavior is occurring, then the clinical psychologist and client can take steps to deal with the underlying factors so that the client does not need to continue with the inappropriate behavior. This type of therapy is usually a long term therapy.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy: This is a popular therapy method that looks at treating both behavior and thoughts. The goal of this type of therapy is to help the client change the thought patterns that can lead to problem behaviors. The client is taught how to recognize the thought patterns that typically accompany inappropriate behavior and then how to use various techniques to begin changing these thoughts and the accompanying behaviors. Cognitive behavior therapy is typically short term with specific goals in mind.

Family Therapy: Family therapy, as the name suggests, treats families as a whole when looking at problem areas. In this type of therapy, the focus is not on an individual's problems but instead looks at how people interact and communicate with one another in the family in order to identify any problems. Once the problems have been identified, strategies for changing the interactions are investigated.

Brief Therapy: A number of different approaches can be viewed as brief therapy but what they all have in common is the focus on solutions without being overly concerned about the actual problem. This means that a clinical psychologist working within this model, would not be worried about "why" the behavior is occurring and would be more concerned with how to stop it from continuing.

This is only a brief example of some of the different approaches a clinical psychologist can use. There are a number of other approaches that can be used when it comes to providing psychotherapy and the approach which is used will depend on the clinical psychologist, the client and the presenting problem.


Once therapy is concluded, the clinical psychologist will need to reassess the client to evaluate any changes that have occurred. The clinical psychologist needs to make sure that the treatment approach used was effective and that the client is no longer troubled by the presenting problems.

Where Does A Clinical Psychologist Work?

There are a number of different places that a person can find work as a clinical psychologist. There has been a fair increase in mental health problems as a result of a number of causes such as anxiety from the financial crisis, the increase in prison populations, and even people staying in school longer. The violence and numerous wars that are occurring are also having an effect on people. Job related stress is also another factor in people seeking help. In fact, a recent report by the OECD found that one in five workers suffer from some form of mental health.

Another reason for the increase in mental health problems is simply the fact that more people are willing to seek help from mental health professionals and are more open to discussing their problems.

Legal Setting: There are plenty of opportunities for clinical psychologists working in a legal setting. This could range from working with people incarcerated in prisons or on parole as well as working with victims of crime. When working within some aspect of the legal system, the clinical psychologist could decide to work with clients ranging from very young people to senior citizens.

You may also be able to find work within the court system performs court appointed assessment and therapy with a variety of clients.

Private Practice: Many clinical psychologists choose to open private practices either by themselves or as part of a group. Usually, a clinical psychologist in private practice will focus on one specific client base or treatment method. Often a group of clinical psychologists within a practice will all use the same method of psychotherapy although at times a number of clinical psychologists may decide to form a practice with each member performing a different kind of therapy. This would allow the practice the flexibility to treat different clients in different ways depending on the needs of the client.

Medical Setting: The type of clinical work done in the medical setting will depend on the actual medical organization. If a clinical psychologist works in a children's hospital, then the focus will obviously be on children and the clinical psychologist will need to learn about neurodevelopmental disorders as well as other problems that are faced by children and teenagers. A clinical psychologist may also be called upon to work on grief issues or other problems relating to a person's illness.

Sports Therapy: Some clinical psychologists are able to find work in the area of sports, working with athletes to help them overcome any problems they may be experiencing. Their goal is to help athletes deal with issues so that they can focus on performing well within their given sport.

Military: A clinical psychologist can also find work in the military. Many military personnel are experiencing problems readjusting to civilian life, dealing with injuries as well as dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. As more and more soldiers become involved in fighting overseas, there will be an even greater need for clinical psychologists in the military. A clinical psychologist may also need to work with the family of military personnel to help them deal with a soldier's death or injury as well as deal with separation issues when a spouse is deployed overseas.

Mental Health Organizations: There are also a number of mental health organizations where clinical psychologists can find work. The client base of these positions depends on the specific mental health organization but could range from families, children and adolescents as well as adults. The method of treatment can also vary within these organizations and may be left up to the individual clinical psychologist to decide.

Although only a few have been listed here, there are still a large number of different areas for a clinical psychologist to work. In addition to the ones already mentioned, a clinical psychologist may also find work in prisons, in schools, and even in various business organizations.

The type of work a clinical psychologist will be involved in depends on both the organization the psychologist works for as well as the type of clients seeking service. A clinical psychologist may choose to work with children, adults and families as well as victims of abuse, addictions or any number of other problems. The clinical psychologist could also choose to get involved in research as well as providing psychotherapy.

How To Become A Clinical Psychologist

In order to be a clinical psychologist you need to first graduate with either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. in psychology. You will also need to obtain the necessary state licenses to practice.

A Ph.D. program focuses has more of a research focus while a Psy.D. has more of a counselling focus although you can still become a licensed clinical psychologist with either degree. You will need to investigate the license requirements for the state that you plan on working in.

Sample Job Titles For a Clinical Psychologist

To give you a better example of the types of jobs available to a clinical psychologist, here are a number of job titles held by people licensed as clinical psychologists.

  • Addictions Psychologist (dealing with all forms of addiction)
  • Research Psychologist
  • Child Psychologist
  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Military Psychologist (includes Air Force Psychologist, Navy Psychologist, Army Psychologist, etc.)
  • Sports Psychologist
  • School Psychologist
  • Prison Psychologist
  • Health Psychologist
  • Professor of Psychology
  • Professor of Clinical Psychology

Overall, the job prospects for a clinical psychologist are very good. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of jobs for clinical psychologists is increasing much faster than that for other jobs. There is a rising need for mental health professionals and the opportunity to work in a variety of areas can ensure that you can work in an area that interests you and that you find enjoyable.