How to Become a Clinical Psychologist, PhD
What is clinical psychology? The answer is quite straightforward: clinical psychology is a field of study that involves the study of psychological disorders and the relationships between psychology and the natural world.
It is the application of psychology to understanding and treating psychological disorders and it addresses the identification, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and recovery of psychological disorders.
There are many subdisciplines within this broad field of clinical psychology
- Interpersonal Psychology
- Social and Behavioral Psychology
- Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental Psychology
- School Psychology
- Sport Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
Within each subfield, different approaches are utilized to address issues and problems in psychology. Many areas of clinical psychology are related to medicine, but many have overlapped with medicine too.
There are numerous reasons to study clinical psychology
Beyond the obvious interest in human behavior. Clinical psychologists examine the relationship between
- Biological and environmental factors
- Neurological processes
- Cultural and social environments
- Personal factors such as gender, ethnicity, culture, age, nationality, and IQ.
They also examine issues such as coping mechanisms and abnormal behaviors as a result of traumatic events. Most clinical psychology students major in a course of study that focuses on one particular clinical psychology disorder such as
How do clinical psychologists make diagnoses?
Clinical psychology diagnoses are based on the patient’s responses to psychological tests such as the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator or the Inventory of Personality Traits. These tests measure things such as
- Sexual dysfunction
Once a psychologist makes a diagnosis, he or she will then try to figure out what is causing the psychological problem. If the patient has a medical illness that is the source of the mental disorder, the disorder may be more serious and require medical attention.
In such cases, the doctor will recommend medications or refer the patient to a mental health professional. If you decide to pursue a career in clinical psychology, the next step is to find a graduate program that prepares you for a job in this field.
Graduate programs in graduate school are now available at many different campuses and online. Many graduate students choose to go directly to graduate school rather than going through an undergraduate program because it allows them to enter the field immediately.
Students also have more options available to them once they have completed their graduate degree
Once you have graduated from a graduate program in clinical psychology, you must pass the NCLEX-PN (or the National Council Licensure Examination) in order to become licensed in your state.
In order to get the most experience possible before applying to work in your state, many graduate students opt to attend clinical psychology internship programs in their states or cities.
During these internships, students can meet other professionals in the field, learn about the clinical process, develop a variety of skills, and gain much needed practical experience.
Internship programs are especially helpful for students who are considering going straight into private practice. The third requirement for becoming a clinical psychologist is taking a qualifying exam that tests your knowledge of both cognitive and behavioral disorders.
The cognitive disorders are measured using multiple-choice questions, while the behavioral disorders are measured using aptitude tests. Once you have successfully completed the examination, you will be given a mental health counseling license.
This license gives you the right to work in private practice, but you still must complete a specific number of credits in the area of psychology in order to be certified. You will also need to have three years of supervised clinical practice before you can take the licensing exam.
You will need to complete coursework in
- Human behaviors
- Social sciences
- Diagnostic procedures
- Research methods
- Interpersonal communication
After you have graduated, you will have to pass the board exam. You will be able to choose between two specializations
- Marriage and Family Therapy
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
To become a clinical psychologist, you first have to graduate from an accredited school of medical science. The medical school must be accredited by the American Psychological Association.
Then, you have to get a master’s degree from an accredited university or college. Your doctoral degree will be necessary to get a license from the state you live in.
The requirements are much different in each state, but they are similar enough that you should be aware of them when applying to get a Master’s in Clinical Psychology or Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
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