What Is a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology

Do you want to spend your life helping others? Are you fascinated by the inner workings of the human brain? Would you like to learn more about how it processes emotion, trauma, social experiences and more? If so, you’re probably a good candidate for a doctorate of clinical psychology.

This terminal degree represents the pinnacle of learning in the field of clinical psychology, a realm concerned with the practice of psychological techniques for the benefit of patients. For those with scientific minds and compassionate hearts, it is the perfect choice of Psychology career – especially if you also like the thought of taking on leadership roles and adding to the existing body of medical knowledge.

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Before you can do that, though, you’ll need to earn the degree. The question thus becomes, what exactly is a doctorate of clinical psychology? How can you get one? And what will it allow you to do upon graduation?

Let’s take a look.

What Is Clinical Psychology?

Before you can understand what a clinical pharmacology doctorate is, you must understand what the field comprises.

According to the American Psychological Association, “Clinical psychology is the psychological specialty that provides continuing and comprehensive mental and behavioral health care for individuals and families; consultation to agencies and communities; training, education and supervision; and research-based practice.”

Unlike some other practices, “ It is a specialty in breadth — one that is broadly inclusive of severe psychopathology — and marked by comprehensiveness and integration of knowledge and skill from a broad array of disciplines within and outside of psychology proper. The scope of clinical psychology encompasses all ages, multiple diversities, and varied systems.”

Compare this to, say, psychopharmacology. The latter profession has to do with the use of medications in treating psychological ailments, and as such is very specialized and highly concerned with keeping up with advancements in the pharmaceutical field. By contrast, clinical psychology seeks to encompass all types of psychology, so that the practitioner has as broad a range of techniques to choose from as possible.

Notably, clinical psychology takes a research-based – otherwise known as clinical – approach, using scientific methods to diagnose people’s mental health issues and design plans of action for treating them. If you enter this field, be prepared to move beyond talk therapy and use all available methodologies to ascertain the most scientific diagnosis and treatment possible.

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What Is a Clinical Psychology Doctoral Degree?

A doctoral degree or doctorate is a terminal degree. That means that there are no other degrees to attain in your field – you will be at the pinnacle once you have your doctorate in hand. There are two main ways to achieve this:

  1. Doctor of Philosophy: With a doctor of philosophy, otherwise known as a Ph.D. in Psychology, you can study psychology, conduct research and teach effectively. This is often the degree that people get if they want to go into a more academic setting, such as a teaching hospital or clinic. You still get lots of hands-on experience with patients, but your focus will be more on research. It is the degree for people who want to stay on the cutting edge of academic advancement.
  2. Doctor of Psychology: This is a newer degree, developed in the 1970s to accommodate people who wanted a more specifically people-centered degree. This PsyD degree is the classic clinical psychology doctorate, educating you on the best ways to engage with patients and serve their needs. This is the degree for people who would rather be in the field than in the classroom or lab.

Either degree can get you jobs in clinical psychology, preparing you to work in a range of settings. These include:

  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Field medical centers
  • Community centers
  • Schools
  • Mental institutions
  • Social work settings
  • Government organizations

Before you can work in any of those settings, however, you need the degree.

How Do You Get a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology?

First, note that almost every state will require you to have a doctorate in order to work in clinical psychology. While there are a few states that may allow you to work under someone else who has a doctoral degree, if you want to work as a clinical psychologist in your own right, you will almost certainly need this degree.

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In order to apply for a doctoral program, you’ll definitely need a bachelor’s degree. It’s best if this is in a related field, though it isn’t necessary. If you don’t have the required prerequisites, you can take post-baccalaureate classes to make up for your lack of knowledge. Once you have all the prerequisites in place, you can apply for a program. In some cases, you will also have to have a master’s degree, while in other cases, a program may allow you to apply directly following undergrad. Some degrees combine the master’s and doctoral degrees so that you emerge from the program with both.

While in the program, you will need to complete a certain number of supervised hours working in the field. This varies by state or jurisdiction, so look up the requirements for the state in which you want to practice upon graduation. This is a more useful measure of what you should achieve than the state you’re currently in. If the two are the same, you’re good to go.

Generally speaking, you will need around 1,500 hours of supervised work in order to graduate from the program. To work as a clinical psychologist, you will also need supervised hours following your graduation, when you begin working. But what happens after you take the licensing exam when you get your first job.

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What Is the Exam Like?

“All U.S. states and Canadian provinces whose boards are members of ASPPB – except Quebec and Prince Edward Island – require applicants to pass the EPPP, a 225-question multiple-choice test developed by ASPPB on core areas of psychology, such as assessment and diagnosis, and social and biological bases of behavior,” says the American Psychological Association. Some states also require candidates to pass an oral exam that may be a competency-based test or a test of laws and ethics. Other states only require a jurisprudence exam.”

Again, make sure you look up the requirements for the state in which you hope to practice. You need to know the exam requirements, what constitutes a passing score, and how many hours you need before and after earning your license, or else you may hit bumps in the road when applying for jobs.

Overall, while the program may take 4-5 years to fully complete, it is a streamlined process. Your school will help you check all the boxes so that you can be on your way to a fulfilling and meaningful career … so don’t wait to choose a school and apply today!