What Is a Clinical Psychologist?

Are you confused with the sea of alpha that follows the names of various therapists? LPC, MA, LMFT, MSW, LCSW, PsyD, and PhD are many of the abbreviated degree titles that you might find in the world of mental health providers. Many responsibilities and training overlap among these professionals and some have more specified education and/or longer years of graduate school than others. When selecting a provider for yourself or a loved one it is helpful to understand what makes each professional unique. Here we cover what a clinical psychologist does and their areas of specialties.

Clinical Psychologist Degrees and Education

All psychologists must have a doctorate degree to use the title “Clinical Psychologist.” If they obtained a Doctorate of Philosophy, their degree is abbreviated as PhD. If they obtained a Doctorate of Psychology, their degree is represented as PsyD. Both doctorate degrees allow the clinical psychologist to practice in the State of California under a psychology license that they obtain through the California Board of Psychology. These individuals often have a Master’s Degree that they obtained while working toward their doctorate. Typically, a doctorate requires at least four years academic classes. This is followed by one year internship and at least one year post-doctoral experience. These trainings are to acquire the minimum of 3000 hours in order to sit for the national and state licensing exams.

What Can a Clinical Psychologist Do?

A clinical psychologist’s duties typically fall into four categories including assessment, intervention, consultation, and research. They often provide training, education and supervision for interns. Organizations within the community often ask them to provide consultations for various issues or to educate the public on specific disorders. Communities also sometimes call in clinical psychologists after a community crisis to help the community heal and move past the tragedy. Clinical psychologists often work in private practice and you may also find them working in a variety of settings including hospitals, nursing homes, community centers, and universities. They are typically trained to work alongside medical doctors and nurses, school personnel, speech and occupational therapists, and nutritionists.

What Makes a Clinical Psychologist Unique?

Clinical psychologists are specifically trained to complete and interpret psychological and psychoeducational assessments and tests. Using this data, they can make clinical diagnoses (e.g., ADHD, Specific Learning Disabilities, Anxiety). They are able to integrate cognitive, social-emotional, personality, and learning style testing with other types of assessments (e.g, speech, occupational). Clinical psychologists use a host of assessment tools like diagnostic interviewing and behavioral assessments. Additionally, psychological tests provide a foundation for school, home, and treatment recommendations and are requested by parents, educators, and others.

Additional Clinical Psychologist Specialties

Clinical psychologists provide individual therapy upheld by rigorous ethical standards and practices. Their therapy interventions are research-based and empirically supported. This means that clinical trials and studies have shown the therapy techniques to be effective. This can include mood related and neurodevelopmental diagnoses (e.g., ADHD, Autism, Learning Disabilities). Clinical psychologists can treat adults, children, or whole families. Some clinical psychologists specialize mainly in issues regarding children and adolescents. Their clients may come to them for anything from minor discomfort to those with severe psychopathology, and everything in between.

Some clinical psychologists focus mainly on research to help improve outcomes for people with mental health challenges. Their studies are completed at universities, hospitals, homes, community settings, and overseas.

Getting the right mental health clinician can make a positive difference in the lives of someone who needs help. If you are looking for a therapist, here is an article on how to choose the right psychologist for your family.

Paradox Psych Services is a child and teen therapy center with two locations in Carlsbad: Bressi Ranch and Aviara. Our child therapists at Bressi Ranch are also near San Marcos. We offer an action and goal oriented approach with skilled therapists that have earned the highest achievable degree in their field. To learn more about our services, contact us today for a free phone consultation. 

About Susan Gehrig, PhD

Susan Gehrig, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and founder of Paradox Psychological Services located in Carlsbad. She has a passion for supporting the wellbeing of children and teens. Her expertise is in child mindfulness and self-compassion, cognitive behavioral therapy, and child development. Dr. Gehrig provides psychoeducational testing and therapy services to help build a plan for success. Paradox provides services for families of San Diego North County and greater areas.

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