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Although other health care organizations might use the term clinical director for a variety of management positions, one of the more common uses is related to the field of mental health. Tennessee Voices for Children, an advocacy organization for children’s health and education services, notes that the clinical director is a member of the management team and should be directly involved in designing systems of care.
Education and Experience
Clinical directors in mental health are usually psychologists, according to Florida Tech Online (FTO), with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in psychology. FTO recommends a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology with a concentration in clinical psychology, and notes that if the position requires clinical services, a doctorate may be required. In either case, clinical experience is typically required and can be obtained through internship programs or summer jobs in the course of obtaining a degree. In some mental health organizations, however, the clinical director might be a physician, social worker or licensed marriage and family therapist.
A Management Role
As management staff, clinical directors typically hire, train and supervise employees, support staff and interns. Many collaborate and build formal relationships with other organizations that assist the mentally ill, such as social services agencies, primary care physicians and mental health providers. Work settings for mental health clinical directors typically include community health organizations, clinics and educational organizations, according to FTO. The clinical director ensures clients and patients receive quality care and that the organization complies with federal, state and local laws.
The Daily Duties
In common with most management positions, the clinical director is often responsible for budgetary oversight, personnel policies and the overall management of the programs under their supervision. They might assess current mental health programs, restructure existing programs or develop new programs. Some clinical directors also provide direct patient care and might act as a clinical expert for their own staff or other organizations. Keeping and managing clinical and organizational records is another common responsibility. The clinical director must also be able to respond to crisis situations when they occur.
Although each organization defines the specific skills and qualifications of a clinical director, some are common to most organizations. A clinical director must have excellent communication skills and interpersonal abilities, and be comfortable with public speaking, according to Women’s Center Youth and Family Services of Stockton, California. FTO notes time management and leadership skills are a must, as is the ability to work with emotionally fragile clients. Some clinical directors might need specialized knowledge related to a particular patient population such as veterans.
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.