clinical psychologist

What is a Clinical Psychologist?

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Written by Joe Nightingale

Medical Doctor

21 Apr, 2022

Psychology is a familiar subject to most people – it's the study of minds. But when we start adding words in front, things become a little more confusing. Clinical psychologists are a prime example. You'll find these professionals in hospitals, clinics, universities and more. Still, their role can be somewhat elusive.

What is a clinical psychologist? And what does a clinical psychologist do?

Read on to find out.

What is a clinical psychologist?

A clinical psychologist is a psychologist who specialises in mental health. In Australia, they've undertaken high-level training via an APAC-accredited course. They're trained to assess and diagnose mental illnesses and psychological problems. They'll also provide expert advice to patients, using techniques and therapies to treat mental illnesses.

The ACPA, or the Australian Clinical Psychology Association, exists to regulate and monitor the training clinical psychologists receive. All practising clinical psychologists in Australia will be a member of the ACPA.

What does a clinical psychologist do?

Although they specialise in mental health, clinical psychologists have a diverse array of potential roles. Clinical psychologists are generally involved in psychological assessments, clinical formulation, diagnoses, and administering psychotherapy.

In short – they diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Unlike psychiatrists, clinical psychologists do not prescribe medications; rather, they administer psychological therapies.

Where you find clinical psychologists can vary significantly. Some will work in hospitals, others in outpatient facilities. You'll also find clinical psychologists performing research, teaching students, or consulting patients privately.

What's the difference between a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist?

After asking, "what is a clinical psychologist?" people are often confused about how they differ from psychiatrists.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors, whereas clinical psychologists receive training through a Clinical Master's or PhD program. Because they're not doctors, as mentioned, clinical psychologists do not prescribe medication. Psychiatrists are also the ones who conduct brain assessments, like EEGs and administer electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Clinical psychologists' primary treatments are via ongoing psychological services, like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). They'll also perform psychological testing to better understand your condition and how it's affecting your life.

What problems do clinical psychologists treat?

When we imagine clinical psychologists, we often think of core mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Clinical psychologists are instrumental in their treatment. However, you can see a clinical psychologist for any number of reasons:

What qualifications do clinical psychologists have?

In Australia, becoming a clinical psychologist requires a minimum of 8-years of study. Following a 4-years Honours degree in psychology, students must complete a 2-to-3-year accredited post-graduate degree. Finally, they'll undertake a 1-to-2-year registrar program run by the Psychology Board of Australia.

Clinical psychologists, therefore, are among the best trained medical professionals in mental health. Few others receive the same level of training and experience.

If you have just started your mental health journey and are looking to see a clinical psychologist, you can find a clinical psychologist on Talked.

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Joe Nightingale

Medical Doctor

Joe is a qualified medical doctor, graduating from Hull York Medical School, United Kingdom in 2017. He's an avid freelance writer and also one of the top science writers at Medium.

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