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Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychology


The Basic Practice – Clinical Psychology


Clinical psychology is the largest of the specialties in the field.  Clinical psychologists work most often in counseling centers, independent or group practices, hospitals, or clinics. They help mentally and emotionally disturbed clients adjust to life and may assist medical and surgical patients in dealing with illnesses or injuries.   Some clinical psychologists work in physical rehabilitation settings, treating patients with spinal cord injuries, chronic pain or illness, stroke, arthritis, and neurological conditions.


Others help people deal with times of personal crisis, such as divorce or the death of a loved one.  Grief counseling can be a personal or a family form of psychological treatment.  Marriage and family counseling are also areas that psychologists may pursue, although there are specialties in that area for which licensed practitioners need only achieve a master’s degree and go through extensive student clinical work along with a licensure exam.


Afflictions that Clinical Psychologists Treat


Addiction medicine has become a highly visible specialty as drugs become more pervasive in our society.  Alcoholism is also more visible because the general population drinks far less than a generation ago, and because the disease carries less social stigma than in years past.  Many addicts and alcoholics will find themselves, after and initial detox and orientation program, following the paths of Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.  These programs have kept millions sober, but many active participants in the programs also seek psychological help. 


Attention deficit disorder and depression are two more psychological problems that have become much more frequently diagnosed in recent years, and are part of the reason that the practice of clinical psychology is projected to grow more rapidly than the general job index over the next ten years.


Anxiety and stress, closely tied to depression, are also standard fare for the clinical psychologist.  Sleep disorders, anger management and a number of other clinical problems round out an active clinical psychologist’s extremely varied practice.



Some Specialties in Clinical Psychology


Areas of specialization within clinical psychology include health psychology, neuropsychology, and geropsychology. Health psychologists promote good health through health maintenance counseling programs designed to help people achieve goals, such as stopping smoking or losing weight. Psychologists in this field will often work in a group setting as it has been proven that support from peers facing the same challenge can be an important facet of treatment.  


Neuropsychologists study the relation between the brain and behavior. This is a medical specialty; these psychologists often work in stroke and head injury programs. Geropsychologists deal with the special problems faced by the elderly such as Alzheimer’s disease. The emergence and growth of these specialties reflects the increasing participation of psychologists in providing direct services to special patient populations.


Clinical psychologists generally are not permitted to prescribe medication to treat patients; that privilege is reserved to psychiatrists and other medical doctors.  Often psychologists have taken patients under referral from a physician and will work in concert with the referring doctor in prescribing medication.  However, two States—Louisiana and New Mexico—currently allow clinical psychologists to prescribe medication with some limitations, and similar proposals have been made in other States.
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