Clinical psychologists work with a wide range of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. They might work with people facing short-term issues, or people who have chronic problems. Strategies may vary by specialty, but some of the work is the same throughout the field, such as:
- Conducting interviews
- Planning out treatments
- Offering diagnostic testing
- Encouraging individual, family or group therapy
Clinical psychologists work very closely with other medical professionals to provide the best care possible. In some states, they have the ability to prescribe medications in addition to providing therapy. Clinical psychologists often chose to focus on one particular population, such as the elderly or adolescents. They can also specialize in a particular situation that patients might face, such as substance abuse or brain injuries.
Students interested in online psychology programs can often benefit from learning about the experiences of those who have already walked this career path. Dr. Samantha Rafie, Ph.D., is a pain psychologist with the Bay Area Pain & Wellness Center. She shared with us her career path, day-to-day work and other points of being a clinical psychologist.
Dr. Samantha Rafie, Ph.D., is a pain psychologist with the Bay Area Pain & Wellness Center.
Why did you become a clinical psychologist?
Rafie: I am inspired by helping others become their best selves. Clinical psychology is the pathway that allows me to provide both support and structure to move patients towards increased insight, motivation to change, and progress.
What does a clinical psychologist do?
Rafie: A typical workday [for me] involves leading group psychotherapy and individual sessions, interdisciplinary team meetings, consultation with providers, interpreting psychodiagnostic assessments, documentation, and chart review.
Are there specializations in clinical psychology?
Rafie: There are numerous specialty areas within clinical psychology, including health psychology, forensic psychology, neuropsychology, rehabilitation psychology, child psychology, and geriatric psychology. In my doctoral training, I focused in health psychology, and later completed a postdoctoral fellowship in pain psychology, which is a subset of health psychology focused on the management of chronic pain. My work with pain patients has a rehabilitative emphasis, where I facilitate each individual's journey towards improved emotional and cognitive functioning as well as reintegration into their lives that have become so small and disconnected due to pain.
What are the preferred skills of a psychologist?
Rafie: A psychologist must be intelligent and considerate in order to best help patients as they problem solve. Of course it is important to listen actively and provide a supportive and therapeutic environment for change to occur, but the psychologist must also bring in their ability to confront difficult behaviors, set boundaries when necessary and be comfortable teaching patients new and relevant coping skills to address their struggles.
Why would you recommend someone enter this career field?
Rafie: This is difficult and challenging work. You see people at their worst, and also working toward their best, wherein lies the fruits of your labor. For those who are compelled to work in the area of clinical psychology, I say, let your passion drive you forward. Recognize that it is hard work and the field is impacted with a tremendous supply of clinicians. That said, there is always a demand for skilled providers.
Clinical Psychologist Career Outlook
Those who choose to pursue clinical psychology as a career might find impressive job growth awaits them. Employment for clinical, counseling and school psychologists is expected to grow by 20 percent nationwide from 2014 to 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to data from Projections Central, the states with the highest growth during that time period include:
- Utah (37.3%)
- Kentucky (31.4%)
- Florida (28.5%)
- Maryland (25.7%)
- Nevada (25.6%)
The demand for psychologists, including clinical psychologists, is expected to grow due to move individuals and families seeking help with various problems. An aging population, along with the mental and emotional issues that come along with growing older, are also expected to spur demand. Clinical psychologists might also find good employment opportunities in schools, hospitals, mental health centers and social service agencies.
Want to learn more about becoming a clinical psychologist? The journey can begin by searching through the online psychology programs offered through the schools below.
- Psychologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-1
- Interview with Samantha Rafie, PhD, June 22, 2015
- Long-Term Projections, Projections Central, https://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm