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Clinical Psychologist Duties and Responsibilities

In order to form educated diagnoses and help patients achieve their goals, clinical psychologists perform an array of tasks. Based on the job listings we analyzed, clinical psychologists are typically charged with these duties and responsibilities:

Identify Problems Upon first meeting a patient, the first order of business is to identify the patient's problems. This is accomplished through in-depth one-on-one or group discussions with the patients, as well as an analysis of the patient's family history, medical records and mental health history.

Form Diagnoses After identifying any and all of the patient's problems and reviewing their pre-existing records and history, clinical psychologists will then use the information they've gathered to form the most accurate diagnosis possible. Examples of possible diagnoses include anxiety, depressive and bipolar disorders.

Identify Goals Before developing a treatment plan, it's important that clinical psychologists work with the patient to identify their personal goals, since this will help inform what the treatment plan should be. For example, the patient may want to reduce their level of anxiety.

Develop and Implement a Treatment Plan Once a clinical psychologist has identified the patient's issues and goals and formed a diagnosis, they must develop a comprehensive treatment plan that's designed to help the patient achieve their goals over a certain period of time. Depending on the patient's feedback, the plan may need to be modified before being implemented.

Monitor and Guide Patient As the patient progresses through their treatment plan, a clinical psychologist will monitor and document the patient's improvements and setbacks. With each new development, the psychologist will work with the patient to help them overcome any obstacles that arise.

Study, Conduct and Publish Research Though some clinical psychologists may choose not to publish their own research, it's essential that they study new research as it's released, read relevant academic journals and examine the efficacy of their own treatment plans on an ongoing basis.


Clinical Psychologist Skills and Qualifications

Clinical psychologists should be analytical thinkers, fastidious problem-solvers and empathetic communicators. Depending on where they work and what they're interested in, clinical psychologists may also need to be skilled in specific areas, such as family and marital dynamics, drug abuse, children's psychology and more. Employers typically favor clinical psychologists with the following skills:
  • Communication skills - because the success of a clinical psychologist depends on their ability to effectively communicate with patients and their families, it's imperative that they have superb verbal and written communication skills.
  • Empathetic and calm demeanor - because they will frequently be working with patients who are in distress or have experienced trauma, clinical psychologists must be empathetic. And, because patients may also experience strong emotions during sessions or even become belligerent and upset, clinical psychologists also need to remain calm and defuse tense situations without becoming flustered or defensive.
  • Problem-solving skills - one of the most important skills a clinical psychologist can have in their arsenal is the ability to effectively solve problems using a combination of research and analysis.
  • Integrity - since clinical psychologists will be regularly handling extremely sensitive information as well as influencing the lives and decisions of patients, it's critical that they possess honesty, integrity and a strong moral compass.
  • Research skills - new discoveries are being made in the world of psychology on a regular basis. So, clinical psychologists must have excellent research skills as well as a drive to continue their own education for the duration of their career.

Education and Training

The baseline requirements for clinical psychologists is a bachelor's degree as well as a master's degree in clinical psychology. Many clinical psychologists also pursue a doctorate degree, such as a PhD in psychology, or a PsyD in clinical psychology. Additionally, clinical psychologists need to fulfill their state's licensing and/or certification requirements before they can begin practicing.

Salary and Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists, which includes clinical psychologists, make a median annual salary of $77,030, with the lowest-paid earning $42,330 or less per year and the highest-paid earning 124,520 or more per year. The employment of clinical psychologists is expected to 14 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than average for all occupations. This means that 23,000 new jobs in this field will be created during that time period.

Helpful Resources

If your goal is to become a clinical psychologist, take a look at this list of resources we assembled to help you achieve that objective.

Standardized Assessment for Clinical Practitioners: A Primer - This easy-to-read white paper on standardized assessment is ideal for new and beginning clinical psychologists.

Brain Blogger - This blog, overseen by its editor-in-chief, Dr. Shaheen E. Lakhan, features articles from more than 100 contributors. Topics include clinical psychology, neuroscience, general healthcare and much more.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Worksheets - This extensive library of therapy worksheets can help clinical psychologists better work with their patients, understand their condition and form diagnoses.

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