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Clinical Psychology

What is clinical psychology?

Clinical Psychology is the application of science to understand human thought, emotions and behaviour. It uses researched tools and methods to reduce psychological distress and promote psychological well-being. Clinical Psychologists are also able to undertake psychometric assessments in a variety of areas (including cognitive functioning) and often conduct research to help advance scientific knowledge of mental health.

Who do clinical psychologists work with?

They work in a variety of settings from schools to outpatient clinics and inpatient hospitals. individuals with mental or physical health difficulties which might include anxiety, depression, serious and enduring mental health problems, adjustment to physical illness, neurological disorders, addictive behaviour, childhood behavioural disorders, They tend to work with personal and family relationships and learning disability. They also work with people who simply wish have a better understanding of their cognitive profile or pattern of interacting with others.

What are their qualifications?

Registered clinical psychologists from the UK will have a degree in psychology plus an additional three years of postgraduate experience and university training in applying the science of psychology to clinical problems. Most clinical psychologist are required to have significant relevant work experience before being accepted onto the doctoral training course, and thus takes 6-9years to achieve qualification.

What is the difference between a clinical psychologist, a psychiatrist and a therapist?

A clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist often work in the same setting and both can give a mental health diagnosis. However, a clinical psychologist has been trained to help you think about whether a psychological therapy like cognitive behaviour therapy may help. Whereas a psychiatrist can help you think about whether a biological treatment such as an anti- depressant may help. Clinical psychologists often work alongside psychiatrists and may refer you to one if they feel it will be helpful.

Therapists and counsellors usually specialise in providing one particular therapy. If you know what form of therapy would most likely help your problem, you might go directly to see a therapist or counsellor.

How do I get to see a clinical psychologist?

You can refer yourself directly to see a clinical psychologist and referrals can also come from teachers, doctors or other educational or health care professionals. All referrals are treated in a non-judgmental manner and with the strictest confidence. When you meet with a clinical psychologist, the initial meeting will usually be for an assessment and then the clinician will discuss with the client the treatment options.

What therapy do clinical psychologists use?

Most clinical psychologists will have training in Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT) as well as one or a few other modalities, depending on the specific area of practice. CBT is an evidence-based treatment for a number of presenting difficulties such as anxiety, low mood, depression and interpersonal difficulties (amongst others). ‘Evidence-based’ means that it has undergone clinical trials to investigate its efficacy in alleviating psychological difficulties. This usually involves randomised-controlled trials whereby the efficacy of CBT is compared with medication and with no treatment. This type of study is seen as the ‘gold standard’ of research evidence.

Cognitive-behaviour therapy has been found to be very effective in reducing psychological distress. CBT focuses on the link between our thought processes and our emotions and behaviour. At times of psychological distress, we may find ourselves thinking in unhelpful ways and behaving in ways which may maintain the problem. In therapy, the first stage is to identify these thinking, feeling and behaviour patterns. Following this, a plan is made to develop more helpful thought processes and adapt our behaviour so that the psychological distress is reduced.

Other modalities include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Play, Sand, and Expressive Arts Therapies, Emotional Focused Therapy (EFT), Family Therapy, and a host of others. Be sure to ask your psychologist about what modality they might suggest to for work with you so you can be better informed about the process and expected outcomes of your therapy.