The role and training of clinical psychologists

Clinical psychologists are mental health professionals who have received highly professional training in the diagnosis and psychotherapy of mental, behavioral and emotional diseases.

The role of clinical psychologists

Clinical psychologists will not prescribe drugs to treat mental illness, except in a few states where they do have such power. Instead, they use psychological techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychoanalytic therapy.

Clinical psychologists usually must complete a doctorate in clinical psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) before they can meet with patients and use these techniques. However, in some states and provinces, a master’s degree is sufficient. In most states and provinces, the professional activities of clinical psychologists are regulated by licensing boards and/or professional colleges.

In addition to providing psychotherapy, psychologists may conduct psychological tests or research, or they may conduct teaching.

Clinical Psychologist Certification

Although practical clinical psychology does not require committee certification, the American Board of Clinical Psychology (ABCP) provides committee certification for clinical psychologists, which includes basic abilities to practice, teach, or conduct research. These capabilities include:

  • Understand ethical and legal principles and use them effectively
  • Build effective relationships with others, including customers, peers and the public
  • Continuously practice self-evaluation and continuously strive to improve treatment methods
  • Fair, respectful and clear communicator, and able to handle potentially difficult situations through understanding and diplomacy
  • Keep up with the latest research and determine how it can improve clinical practice
  • Have obvious professional attitudes, values ​​and behaviors in interactions with others
  • Be sensitive to personal and cultural diversity and understand how these factors affect who we are and how we think
  • Good at cooperating with others from different disciplines and organizations, respecting, appreciating and communicating
  • Understand the different scientific disciplines related to psychology and how they affect treatment
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Special skills of clinical psychologists

Clinical psychologists possess a large number of specific skills in their work, including:

  • Conduct research and collect data to enhance understanding of clinical psychology
  • Consult various other behavioral and health professionals and organizations on violence, suicide, and severe mental distress
  • Have extensive knowledge of mental illness and how to diagnose and treat it
  • Understand a wide range of mental health issues and how they occur at any age

Psychologist and psychiatrist

The biggest difference between psychologists and psychiatrists is that psychiatrists are doctors who can prescribe medication (MD), while most psychologists are not doctors and usually cannot prescribe medication.

Although a psychologist may also have a doctorate, it is not a medical degree. The psychiatrist went through a year of medical internship, followed by three years of hospitalization and diagnosis of mental illness. Psychologists usually do an internship for one to two years after completing their degree.


  • Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

  • Can diagnose mental illness

  • Can prescribe medicine

  • Can provide talk therapy

  • Doctor (MD)

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Clinical psychologist

  • Certified by the American Council of Clinical Psychology

  • Diagnosable mental illness

  • Can’t prescribe medicine (with some exceptions)

  • Talk therapy

  • Master’s degree, Ph.D. or Psy.D.

Should you see a psychologist or a psychiatrist?

One major difference between the two methods is that while psychologists usually look at your behavior, psychiatrists are more likely to look at the biological factors behind your mental health problems first.

Your choice of psychologist or psychiatrist may depend on several factors. Some psychiatrists only prescribe drugs and do not do psychotherapy, so you can choose to see a psychiatrist and a psychologist at the same time to get drugs and treatment. However, many psychiatrists do both.


The role and training of clinical psychologists
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