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What Does a Clinical Psychologist Do?

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Clinical psychology deals with the assessment and treatment of emotional and behavioral disorders and mental illnesses and disabilities. Responsible for providing these services are clinical psychologists, professionals who commonly hold master's and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology. Although most professionals commonly work in health care facilities, health care organizations and educational institutions, others are self-employed, running private clinics.

Assessing Patients

When a patient visits a clinical psychologist, the first step the psychologist takes is to assess him using a suitable technique. For example, the psychologist may conduct psychometric tests -- scientific methods used to measure behavioral styles and mental capabilities of individuals -- interview the patient or observe his behavior at individual play or in group interactions. Clinical psychologists also may interview patients' family members to obtain information on medical, social and behavioral histories.

Diagnosing Disorders

Clinical psychologists study the assessment results to identify the exact emotional, behavioral and mental disorders and diseases affecting patients. This involves studying visible and invisible symptoms and analyzing the thoughts and actions of patients. The psychologists may consult with materials, such as psychology textbooks and journals, and health care practitioners, such as occupational therapists and doctors, to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Clinical psychologists also may interpret psychological test results conducted by other professionals.

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Recommending Treatments

After making a diagnosis, clinical psychologists focus on devising treatment plans that can improve their client's well-being. Depending on the nature and severity of a patient's disorder, the psychologist may administer treatment using methods, such a hypnosis or recommend therapy or counseling. For a client who is depressed as a result of a divorce, for example, the psychologist likely will refer him to a marriage and family therapist for expert counseling.

Conducting Research

Clinical psychologists working in colleges and universities engage in research projects to investigate new diseases and obtain information on a variety of topics. For example, they can investigate the long-term effects of media violence on children's growth and development, or how social media sites influence behaviors. They often publish the results of their investigations in psychology journals and author books to enlighten psychology students and educators, parents and other relevant audiences.

2016 Salary Information for Psychologists

Psychologists earned a median annual salary of $75,710 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, psychologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,390, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $97,780, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 166,600 people were employed in the U.S. as psychologists.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.

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