What is a PsyD in Clinical Psychology?
Psychology is a deep and varied field, with almost as many approaches as there are people who practice it. While there are numerous disciplines within the larger field, clinical psychology arches over many of them, if not most.
This discipline is concerned with the treatment of people who need help, which is what draws so many people to its practice. If you want to help patients overcome difficulties, better their lives and improve their relationships, this might be the field for you. With a PsyD degree (Doctor of Psychology) in the subject, you’ll not only be able to take on leadership roles, you will be able to practice clinical psychology at the highest levels.
Before committing yourself to the idea of this career, though, it’s helpful to learn more about it. Here’s a crash course in clinical psychology basics, as well as programs and exams, job outlook, resources and more. Don’t wait any longer to begin your clinical psychology journey – keep reading to start today.
What Is Clinical Psychology?
The American Psychological Association (APA) explains that “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.”
As pointed out above, it is far-reaching and useful for a huge number of disciplines and approaches. As the APA puts it, “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.”
A hallmark of clinical psychology is its focus on the individual patient. Whether the psychologist is working with someone one-on-one, in a couple or as a group, the goal is always to serve the patient’s needs in order to help them get better, improve their behaviors and reactions, heal from dysfunction and manage disease.
So what, specifically, does a professional in this field do?
What Does a Clinical Psychologist Do?
Clinical psychologists may work in a huge range of settings, from hospitals to clinics, schools to remote outposts, the battlefield or private offices. Their jobs in such settings with vary depending on the population they’re treating, the environment, ages, number of people and other individualized factors. However, the following is a fairly typical list of duties:
- Understanding mental pathology and disease
- Understanding how mental health changes across the lifespan, from childhood to the elder years
- Identifying mental, emotional, social and behavioral maladjustment in patients
- Knowing and applying the right diagnostics and interventions
- Assessing patients, designing and monitoring treatment programs, and modifying as necessary
- Integrating and synthesizing personality tests that help inform treatments and interventions
- Applying standardizes assessment measures to learn more about patients and design the right interventions
- Consulting with family members and other medical or psychological personnel
- Collaborating to create the right interventions and programs to help the mentally disadvantaged or diseased
- Helping to create and run programs to reduce the incidence of suicide and violence
- Finding community services and enrolling patients in applicable programs
- Reviewing the latest science and technologies for application in patient treatment
- Designing research studies, collecting data and analyzing the results to add to the growing body of psychological knowledge
Clinical psychologists may engage in some or all of the above activities on any given day. First, though, they must get the degree.
What is a PsyD in Clinical Psychology?
An important distinction when it comes to doctoral degrees in the realm of psychology is between the PsyD and the PhD, which stands for Doctor of Philosophy. The latter has been around for a long time and is a mostly academic degree. People who get a PhD in Psychology do practice with it as well, but it is better suited to those who want to teach, run studies at academic institutions and publish research papers.
A PsyD, or Doctor of Psychology, is more closely tailored for those who want to work with patients on a daily basis. If your goal is to engage with people, identify disease and dysfunction, design treatment programs, liaise with families and other professionals, and be a big part of success on the individual level, then a PsyD is for you.
Note that the PsyD does not qualify you for psychiatry. This is a combination of psychological and medical degree that allows you to combine clinical psychology with dispensing medication. This degree requires a lot of medical training and understanding of drug interactions in order to prescribe drugs safely, so the PsyD is not a substitute.
How Do You Get a PsyD in Clinical Psychology?
If you’ve decided that the PsyD is for you, how do you get it? What does the program involve? Of course, this will differ for each program, school and individual (as PsyD programs will require you to choose a focus area to guide your learning and later practice).
However, there are a number of subjects that most clinical psychology programs have in common:
- Mental health pathology
- Creation and implementation of intervention on the primary, secondary and tertiary levels
- Performing and interpreting diagnostic tests
- Behavioral assessment and application procedures
- Research and development
- Consultation and communication
- Ethics and legal principles
Usually programs take between 3 and 5 years to complete, though this will also vary depending on your needs and interests. If you go part time and work simultaneously, then the program might take even longer. If you make school and student teaching your only focus, you may be able to get the degree finished in only 3 years. Speak to an admissions officer about the possibilities in your individual case.
How Do You Apply to a Program?
As with the program itself, application to any program will vary depending on the institution. While you should always check with the specific admissions department to ensure you get all of the necessary paperwork in place well ahead of the deadline, you can generally count on needing the following:
- Application: The application is specific to each school and can usually be found online, though some schools still allow you to mail in a paper application. Be sure to fill it out thoroughly, as missed questions may result in disqualifications and missed deadlines.
- GRE scores: Most programs require standardized test scores, though some may not. If you have recently taken the GREs, usually within the last 5 years, a lot of programs will waive them.
- Essay or letter of intent: In order to get in, most programs also require that you provide a writing sample in the form of a letter intent (expressing your interest in joining the program and what you can contribute) or an essay (talking about a time in your life or your stance on an issue). Make sure these are carefully edited.
- Transcripts: The school will want proof of all grades from all schools you have attended before this.
- Letters of recommendation: Most schools want between one and three letters of recommendation from people who can speak to your professionalism, intelligence and diligence. Usually these come from previous professors and from old or current supervisors.
Again, this isn’t necessarily the total of requirements, so speak to admissions to learn more.
What Are the Exams and Licensing Like?
The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) is the standard examination for psychologists who want to practice anywhere in the United States. It is designed to allow you to cross borders without having to take a new exam in order to practice in another state, which is helpful. However, it is also difficult, so make sure you plan enough time to study. If you were already practicing as a psychologist before starting your PsyD program, your test scores may still be valid, in which case you won’t have to take it again.
Getting your license is a bit of a pain, but as long as you keep it current, you’ll never have to do it again. It requires a combination of clinical hours during your program, a passed exam, and supervised hours after graduation. Licensing, unlike the test, does depend on your state, so make sure to find out the requirements for the state in which you want to practice ahead of time.
Job Outlook for Clinical Psychologists with a PsyD
The job outlook for clinical psychologists is good. They can expect to make an average of $41.03 an hour or $85,340 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, keep in mind that this includes many people who only possess a master’s degree, which drags down the average. Those who have a doctorate stand to make much more, likely multiple six figures at the apex of their careers.
If this sounds like a career you might enjoy, don’t wait any longer to explore the possible programs and submit your applications today. And if you ever have questions, please feel free to reach out today!