Of all the different types of psychology that mental health care providers may practice, clinical psychologists make up the greatest number in the field. Clinical psychologists meet with patients who have any number of problems, from developmental disabilities and injuries, to trouble coping with a death or divorce. After making a diagnosis, a clinical psychologist will then recommend a course of treatment which may include medication, therapy, or both.

Practice

Just as there are many types of problems clinical psychologists deal with, there are a number of different approaches to practicing psychology and administering treatment. Because only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication, a clinical psychologist may work with a team of other health care providers to give a patient complete care.

Depending on a clinical psychologist’s field of study, interests, and personal beliefs about the most effective means to treat disorders, therapy can take any number of paths. Some counsel on the individual level, while others work with families or groups. Many focus on behavior modification, while others focus on addiction and the recovery process. Still other clinical psychologists work in hospital settings to help patients cope with pain or neurological injuries. Some clinical psychologists do research through universities and work with large numbers of test subjects.

Education

While there are job opportunities for people who have associate and bachelor’s degrees in psychology, working with patients in a clinical setting requires a master’s degree or a doctorate. Many clinical psychologists choose to specialize in their studies so they may enter a specific field upon graduation.

Specializations

To address the growing elderly population, the relatively new field of geropsychology has emerged to deal with the unique mental health problems of the elderly.

Health psychology is another branch of clinical psychology, and it deals mainly with how various factors come together to determine overall health. They generally take a more community-oriented approach to psychology and study things like the correlation of homelessness and schizophrenia and may work toward creating outreach programs to help at-risk populations.

Neuropsychologists are interested in the hard-wiring of the brain and how it makes us behave. They may work with patients to help them cope with neurological effects of things like stroke, cancer, or head trauma, or they may conduct research on the physical workings of different parts of the brain.

Salary and Job Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job outlook for psychologists is higher than average through 2016, with a projected 15% growth rate. The most successful job applicants in this field will have doctorate degrees and doctoral specializations.

Many clinical psychologists end up opening their own practices after working in schools, hospitals, or group practices. A whopping 34%of all psychologists are self-employed. Don’t let this scare you, though. In 2008, the average annual salary for a clinical psychologist was of $70,190.

Many schools offer programs in psychology, and it’s even possible to earn your master’s or doctorate in psychology through an online college. For a list of schools, check out the Psychology Schools directory to see what’s available.