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What Kinds of Problems Do Clinical Psychologists Treat?

Dear Psychologist,

I might want to become a clinical psychologist. Can you tell me the kinds of problems that clinical psychologists treat these days?

Sincerely, Jackie

Dear Jackie,

Clinical psychologists treat all sorts of problems that cause human beings to struggle in their lives. Psychology is a fascinating subject and there are constantly new advances, understandings, and treatments for these problems.

Typically a licensed psychologist has completed a doctoral program of four years or more, engaged in clinical training under supervision, and passed a state licensing exam. Two common doctoral psychology degrees are the Ph.D. and the Psy.D.

Psychologists work in all kinds of settings, from inpatient psychiatric hospitals, to mental health clinics and from private practices to crisis centers. Clinical psychologists can also be found working in prisons, or with school systems. Some psychologists become coaches to leaders of organizations.

So what kinds of problems do psychologists treat?

1) Depression. Depression can be like the common cold of psychology and ranges in severity from mild to quite extreme. Symptoms of depression include difficulty with sleeping, loss of appetite, sad mood, low energy and more. Psychologists treat depression in different ways-- some use cognitive behavioral treatment techniques while others focus more on root causes in the past. While most psychologists cannot prescribe medicine, they can evaluate whether it might be helpful for a client to see a psychiatrist for an anti-depressant.

2) Anxiety. Anxiety is another very prevalent problem in our culture. People might suffer from specific phobias, social phobias, or even generalized anxiety. While medication can be helpful, there are many types of therapy that effectively address anxiety: cognitive-behavioral, biofeedback, supportive therapy, relaxation techniques and more.

3) Life Adjustment issues. Many people choose to go see a psychologist for help in managing the stressors of their lives. Getting a divorce, looking for a relationship, grieving a loss, coping with a major change are some examples of the types of problems that can motivate someone to get treatment.

4) Trauma. If a person has been in a war, a bad accident, or been a survivor of a rape, assault, or childhood abuse situation, he or she has experienced trauma and may be having symptoms related to the incident. Psychologists have a variety of techniques for helping clients deal with their trauma histories, ranging from crisis intervention and traditional talk therapy to newer treatments such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).

Psychologists also help clients with major mental illness such as schizophrenia and psychosis. In addition, they can help people who are suffering from low self esteem, substance abuse issues, and eating disorders. Depending on the problem treatments can range from a few weeks to many years.

As you become a clinical psychologist you would begin to specialize in the areas that interest you. In addition to particular disorders, you might also focus on a particular age group or population-- for instance, teenagers, children, the elderly, or a specific culture.

If you think you might be interested in becoming a psychologist, there are many doctoral programs to choose from. You can get a degree from a traditional campus based school or you can look at online psychology degrees. Make sure your program is accredited by the American Psychological Association and that it allows for internship experience.

Good luck in your career.

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