Psychologist Job Description
Psychologists diagnose and treat people who have mental health problems of all kinds. Nursing homes, correctional facilities, mental health facilities, and other medical facilities hire psychologists for part- and full-time hours during all shifts, including evenings and weekends; psychologists also work on-call to be available to patients in crisis situations. They also work as independent contractors, establishing their own practice to schedule their own hours and find their own clients. Psychologists typically work independently, but may also work in a collaborative environment as part of a professional treatment team when working for a facility.
Psychologist Duties and Responsibilities
Daily duties performed by psychologists vary based on their patient load and whether they work for themselves or for an employer. The core job tasks associated with this position, however, are universally the same despite these variables.
Psychologists host individual and group therapy sessions.
Speak to Patients
Psychologists talk to patients to establish a rapport, finding ways to help them open up about their thoughts and problems they may be having.
Psychologists diagnose the mental health of patients based on detailed evaluation and observation. Some psychologists may use tests to determine various mental disorders in patients.
Create Treatment Plans
Psychologists design treatment plans for individual patients to help them manage their mental illnesses.
Psychologists use various types of therapy to help patients overcome and manage their problems.
Maintain Patient Charts
Psychologists write notes in patient charts to keep information readily accessible.
Adhere to Professional Standards
Psychologists adhere to all treatment standards as set forth by the employer and by the APA, American Psychological Association.
Psychologists stay up-to-date on current research and data in the psychology field to learn about recent breakthroughs or discoveries that might help patients.
Psychologist Skills and Qualifications
Psychologists are trained professionals who diagnose patients and design appropriate treatment plans, using various therapies and techniques to help them reach a healthier mental state. Individuals and employers who hire psychologists look for professionals who have the skills needed to perform this job:
- Attention to detail – psychologists observe patients, listening carefully to what they say while taking note of their facial expressions and body language
- Critical thinking – to diagnose patients and create treatment plans
- Communication – psychologists interact with patients by listening and talking to them, taking good notes, and recording information in patients’ charts.
- Interpersonal skills – psychologists develop relationships with patients, helping them feel comfortable talking about their secrets, fears, and deep emotions
- Research – to learn more about various psychological conditions and therapeutic treatment methods
Psychologist Education and Training
In order to practice psychology, professionals must hold a doctorate in psychology for the majority of employers and patients, though some may accept a master’s degree. Psychologists must also be licensed by the state licensing board to practice in the state the job is located in. Many employers also seek psychologists who have clinical experience in the mental health industry.
Training is not provided by employers, as psychologists already have the education and knowledge they need to diagnose and treat patients. Facilities that hire psychologists, however, provide a brief orientation period during which psychologists become familiar with the common procedures used by the facility to treat and interact with patients. This period varies by employers but is typically brief, usually no longer than two weeks.
Psychologist Salary and Outlook
Job data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that psychologists earned $77,030 median annual income in 2017. This equates to $37.03 median hourly income. There were more than 150,000 jobs for psychologists in 2016, a number the BLS expects to rise by 14 percent through 2026. This is faster than the national average job growth rate.
Psychologists who are employed in facilities typically receive full medical insurance coverage that includes health, life, dental, and vision benefits. Paid vacation days and paid holidays are also provided by most employers. Other perks, such as free cafeteria meals and free parking, may also be offered by employers. Psychologists who work for themselves do not receive benefits and must manage their own insurance needs, find their own clients, and collect payment from patients they treat.
Use these book and website resources to learn more about diagnosing and treating patients, read mental health news updates, and to search for psychologist job openings:
American Psychological Association – Read up on the latest news in the psychological field, look for job openings, find educational resources, and browse publications and databases full of valuable information at the APA website.
The Psychologist as Detective: An Introduction to Conducting Research in Psychology (5th Edition) – Learn how to research effectively with the tips in this book, which contains critical thinking activities to sharpen the mind.
Association for Psychological Science – Gain more insight into psychology with research topics, professional journals, and magazine content provided on this website, which also offers job listings for psychologists.
Psychologists’ Desk Reference – This desk reference for psychologists offers tips on analyzing and diagnosing patients, using testing methods, and developing treatment programs.
Society for Personality and Social Psychology – Search for jobs and explore career resources at this website for psychologists, which also has news updates, upcoming event dates, and professional publications.
Practical Ethics for Psychologists: A Positive Approach – This book uses the APA’s ethical principles as its source material to provide professional information for psychologists on maintaining ethics while treating patients.
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