What is Clinical Psychology?

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  • 0:04 Definition
  • 0:17 Education
  • 1:16 Work Settings
  • 2:35 Approaches to Therapy
  • 3:13 Subfields
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alyssa Gilston
Clinical psychology integrates science, theory, and practice to address psychological problems. It's the largest of many subfields in psychology. The main focus of clinical psychology is the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.


Clinical psychology is concerned with the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of mental illness. Most clinical psychologists work with clients in a variety of settings and treat clients with various forms of therapy.


A clinical psychologist most often has a doctoral degree. The degree could be a Doctor of Psychology, known as a PsyD, or a Doctor of Philosophy, called a PhD. The difference between the two lies in the focus of the education and training. A Doctor of Psychology will have a more clinical focus, allowing students to work directly with clients in the field and conduct both assessments and therapy. A Doctor of Philosophy student will spend more time conducting actual scientific research than performing therapy. Whether you choose a PsyD or a PhD, you should expect to be in school from 4 to 7 years in order to complete your degree.

It's important to consider whether or not a program is accredited by the American Psychological Association or APA, which represents academic and professional psychologists, prior to enrolling in any school, college, or university. Once you have completed all of your educational requirements, there is still a mandatory internship required before you can obtain state licensure.

Work Settings

A clinical psychologist may work in a variety of places. While many clinical psychologists work in private practices, some also work in university settings, hospital settings, medical schools, correctional facilities, forensic settings, Veteran's Administrations and the military, child and family services, and community mental health centers. Some clinical psychologists also work in public service, substance abuse and addiction centers, as well as with social services and even rehabilitation programs.

Approaches to Therapy

A clinical psychologist could work with young children, adolescents, adults, and/or geriatrics. Some may conduct individual therapy on a one-on-one basis, while others facilitate group therapy and work with a number of clients at the same time. Some clinical psychologists also work with couples and families in treatment as well.

In addition to individual and group therapy, clinical psychologists also perform a variety of cognitive and personality assessments. They can administer, score, interpret, and write psychological reports that may be used for a variety of purposes, including treatment planning, educational placement, and for forensic purposes. Clinical psychologists develop prevention and treatment programs, guide research on an endless amount of topics, and both teach and conduct research in university settings.

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