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Clinical psychologists are practitioners in clinical psychology.

Since the 1970s, clinical psychology has continued growing into a robust profession and academic field of study. Although the exact number of practicing clinical psychologists is unknown, it is estimated that between 1974 and 1990, the number in the U.S. grew from 20,000 to 63,000.[1] Clinical psychologists are still experts in assessment and psychotherapy, and have expanded their focus to address issues of prevention, gerontology, and even sports and the criminal justice system. The fastest growing area appears to be health psychology, which is reflected in hospitals being the fastest-growing employment setting for clinical psychologists in the past decade.[2] Other major changes include the impact of managed care on mental health care, an increasing understanding of the importance of multicultural knowledge, a growing pressure to give limited prescription privileges to psychologists, and the shift in the majority of practitioners of psychotherapy now having masters-level training.

Professional practice

Clinical psychologists can offer a range of professional services, including:[3]

  • Provide psychological treatment (psychotherapy)
  • Administer and interpret psychological assessment and testing
  • Conduct psychological research
  • Teach
  • Development of prevention and treatment programs
  • Consultation (especially with schools and businesses)
  • Program administration
  • Provide expert testimony (forensic psychology)

In practice, clinical psychologists may work with individuals, couples, families, or groups in a variety of settings, including private practices, hospitals, mental health organizations, schools, businesses, and non-profit agencies. Most clinical psychologists who engage in research and teaching do so within a college or university setting. Clinical psychologists may also choose to specialize in a particular field—common areas of specialization, some of which can earn board certification,[4] include:

Training and certification to practice

The University of Pennsylvania was the first to offer formal education in clinical psychology.

Main article: Training and licensing of clinical psychologists

Clinical psychologists undergo many hours of graduate training—usually 4 to 6 years post-Bachelors—in order to gain demonstrable competence and experience. About half of all clinical psychology graduate students are being trained in Ph.D. programs—a model that emphasizes research and is usually housed in universities—with the other half in Psy.D. programs, which has more focus on practice (similar to professional degrees for medicine and law).[5] Both models are accredited by the American Psychological Association[6] and many other English-speaking psychological societies. A smaller number of schools offer accredited programs in clinical psychology resulting in a Masters degree, which usually take 2 to 3 years post-bachelors.

In the U.K., clinical psychologists nearly always undertake a D.Clin.Psychol./Clin.Psy.D, which is a practitioner doctorate with both clinical and research components. This is a three-year full-time salaried program sponsored by the National Health Service (N.H.S.) and based in universities and the N.H.S. Entry into these programs is highly competitive, and requires at least a three-year undergraduate degree in psychology approved by the British Psychological Society or an approved conversion course, plus some form of experience, usually in either the NHS as an Assistant Psychologist or in academia as a Research Assistant. It is not unusual for applicants to apply several times before being accepted onto a training course as only about a fifth of applicants are accepted each year.[7] More information about the path to training in the UK can be found at the central clearing house for clinical psychology training applications, and at where questions can also be answered on the forum, which is run by qualified clinical psychologists.

The practice of clinical psychology requires a license in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and many other countries. Although each of the U.S. states is somewhat different in terms of requirements and licenses, there are three common elements:[8]

  1. Graduation from an accredited school with the appropriate degree
  2. Completion of supervised clinical experience
  3. Passing a written examination and, in some states, an oral examination

All U.S. state and Canada province licensing boards are members of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) which created and maintains the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). Many states require other examinations in addition to the EPPP, such as a jurisprudence (i.e. mental health law) examination and/or an oral examination.[8] Most states also require a certain number of continuing education credits per year in order to renew a license, which can be obtained though various means, such as taking audited classes and attending approved workshops. Clinical psychologists require the Psychologist license to practice, although similar licenses can be obtained with a masters-level degree, such as Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and Licensed Psychological Associate (LPA).

  • Clinical Psychologists are sometimes criticized by psychiatrists for not having sufficient training or scientific knowledge in general medicine, genetics or medication. There has been controversy over attempts by clinical psychologists to obtain prescribing privileges.[9]

See also


  1. Menninger, Roy and Nemiah, John. (2000). American psychiatry after World War II: 1944-1994. Washington, D.C. : American Psychiatric Press. ISBN 0880488662
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named benjamin2
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named compass
  4. American Board of Professional Psychology, Specialty Certification in Professional Psychology
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named norcrosspsyd
  6. APA. (2005). Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology: Quick Reference Guide to Doctoral Programs.
  7. Cheshire, K. & Pilgrim, D. (2004). A short introduction to clinical psychology. London ; Thousand Oaks, CA : Sage Publications. ISBN 076194768X
  8. 8.0 8.1 Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. URL accessed on 2007-02-17.
  9. International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses. (2001). Response to Clinical Psychologists Prescribing Psychotropic Medications. URL accessed on 2007-03-03.

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