Clinical psychology is the branch of psychology concerned with the study, assessment, and treatment of abnormal behavior, mental disorder, and psychiatric problems. Clinical psychology represents the largest specialty area in psychology and one of the largest Divisions (Division 12) of the American Psychological Association (APA). There are also a number of subspecialty areas within clinical psychology, such as child psychology, health psychology, geriatric psychology, and forensic psychology. Clinical psychologists are involved in a variety of different activities, including: research; teaching; supervision and consultation; program development, evaluation, and administration; courtroom testimony; development of public policy; and professional practice.

Clinical Psychology as a regulated profession

Clinical psychology is a regulated profession, which means that clinical psychologists must be licensed to practice clinical psychology. While each state maintains its own licensing boards and licensing requirements, the minimum educational requirement to practice as an independent clinical psychologists is a doctoral degree (either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.) in clinical psychology as well as at least one year of full-time clinical training (in addition to the clinical training and coursework required for the completion of the doctoral degree).

Educational Requirements of a Clinical Psychologist

In the United States and Canada, there are two types of doctoral degrees that represent the minimum educational requirement for clinical psychologists. The Ph.D. is the most common doctoral degree and is typically focused on research in addition to clinical training; the completion of a doctoral dissertation (an independent research project focusing on a specific content area, generally within clinical psychology) is required to obtain a Ph.D. degree. The Psy.D. degree, while less common that the Ph.D. in the United States and Canada, has shown an increase in popularity over the last decade and is primarily focused on clinical practice as opposed to research; while some Psy.D. doctoral programs include a research component, the completion of a doctoral dissertation is not required for the successful completion of a Psy.D. doctoral degree. In the United Kingdom, clinical psychologists complete a doctoral level degree in clinical psychology (either a D.Clin.Psychol. or Clin.Psy.D. degree) through programs sponsored by the National Health Service. Each of these types of doctoral degrees focuses on both research and practice. All doctoral degree programs in clinical psychology in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom are highly competitive.

Assessment in Clinical Psychology

Practicing clinical psychologists work with individuals, couples, families, or groups and use a wide range of assessment and intervention methods. Assessment in clinical psychology involves attempting to determine the nature and cause of psychological factors associated with physical, emotional, behavioral, nervous, and mental disorders as well as their associated effects. Interviews, behavioral observations and assessments, and the administration and interpretation of psychological tests are the primary assessment methods used in clinical psychology.

Intervention in Clinical Psychology

Intervention in clinical psychology involves various methods aimed at preventing and treating emotional distress, personality disturbances, psychopathology, and mental disorder. Intervention techniques include psychotherapy, behavior therapy, marital and family therapy, group therapy, biofeedback, cognitive retraining and rehabilitation, social learning approaches, and environmental consultation and design. The goals of intervention are to promote health, satisfaction, and well-being.

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