Clinical Psychology is an extremely broad and diverse field, involving research, teaching, and clinical services across an array of topics within mental health. This is the largest sub-area of psychology and includes a myriad of focus areas. Some of the key components of the field include understanding and alleviating various forms of mental problems. The field tends to greatly value critical thinking, appreciation of diversity, and application of the scientific method. The early roots of clinical psychology were focused on assessment of individuals’ functioning and the construction of psychological tests, but the field has grown to include many interests such as psychotherapy, consultation, clinical supervision, programming and administration, advocacy and outreach, and more!
The specific career identities of clinical psychologists vary extremely widely. However, generally, clinical psychologists are people who are interested in the minimization of mental suffering and the maximization of mental functioning. These professionals may conduct scholarly research, teach, consult/supervise others in the field, or use practical skills regarding these topics in clinics or other applied clinical locations. This field is typically made up of people who ‘think like scientists’ in understanding the human condition. They may have a specific interest in a particular mental disorder, the treatment needs of a certain population, or a unique theoretical orientation to therapy. While the stereotypical image of a clinical psychologist might be a therapist conducting outpatient services with a depressed or anxious adult, the range of clinical activities conducted today is extremely wide! There is much room to explore niche areas and specialize, or to practice as a generalist.
Clinical Psychologists work in a vast diversity of settings. Private practice outpatient therapy clinics are one example, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. They are also present in hospitals and other medical centers, colleges/universities, jails/prisons, VAs and other government/military locations, specialty treatment clinics, outpatient agencies, and many other places.
Degree: To become a Clinical Psychologist, one must first complete a bachelor’s degree (B.A. or B.S., or perhaps B.S.W.). Psychology would be the most common choice of undergraduate major, but not necessarily the only option. Next, one would need to complete a graduate degree program at either the master’s level (M.A. or M.S. in Clinical Psychology) or the doctoral level (Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology). Doctoral programs in this field tend to be far more competitive than master’s programs, but they also yield wider career flexibility to their graduates and greater salaries. It is important to select graduate programs which are APA-Accredited, as this may impact licensure eligibility later. A master’s typically takes 1.5 to 3 years of study, whereas a doctorate typically takes 5-7 years.
License: Finally, to be practicing as a Clinical Psychologist in the state of Michigan, one needs to be licensed. A doctoral level psychologist is eligible to pursue the status of “Licensed Psychologist” (LP) whereas a master’s level clinician can pursue a status of “Limited Licensed Psychologist” (LLP). Both the LP and LLP routes require a certain number of supervised hours in clinical practice, as well as a passing score on a standardized exam called the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). To learn more about licensing options, check out LARA’s info for psychologists.
Training: There are hundreds of graduate programs in clinical psychology throughout the US and Canada. This APA Graduate Study Database is one way to explore the many available options, another is to review the most current copy of the “Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology” text–this link goes to the 2020/2021 edition of the text. There are several programs in-state (e.g., CMU, EMU, WMU, UM, MSU, MSP), but it is worth noting that one need not attend graduate school in-state in order to eventually build a career here. In fact there may be many out-of-state programs which better fit one’s goals, and the time spent in a different local culture can be an important source of growth.
Clinical Psychologists are often motivated by their fascination with other individuals’ minds and mental health experiences. They typically have a desire to ‘help’ which they wish to enact in evidence-based methods. They find their work fulfilling because they are analytic thinkers eager to explore the inner worlds of other people with empathy and nuance. The flexibility of this field is appealing as well!
Relevant State-Level Organization
Michigan Psychological Association
Relevant National Organization
Society of Clinical Psychology (APA Division 12)
Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (APA Division 53)
The American Academy of Clinical Psychology
The Association for Psychological Science