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About Clinical Psychology

About Clinical Psychology

The British Psychological Society (BPS) describes “Psychology as the scientific study of human thought and behaviour.  Many people are interested in Psychology and it is one of the most popular degrees studied at University. However, having a degree in Psychology is not the same as being a Registered Practitioner Psychologist”.

What training do Clinical Psychologists have?

Registered Clinical Psychologists have a degree in Psychology plus an additional 3–5 years of Postgraduate experience and University training in applying the science of Psychology to clinical problems. It therefore takes 6-8 years to qualify as a Registered Clinical Psychologist. The qualification is a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (Clin.Psy.D.). Clinical Psychologists are trained by the NHS, just like medics and nurses.

How do Clinical Psychologists help people? 

Clinical Psychologists help a wide range of people of all ages with all sorts of problems. Some have particular emotional or mental health problems, such as depression or psychosis. Others may have cognitive problems such as memory problems, a learning disability or dementia. Clinical Psychologists can also help people with health conditions such as chronic pain, or providing advice about support for a child who has experienced trauma.

Whatever the problem, the Clinical Psychologist will consider what scientific research says about its probable cause and what will be likely to help.

 What should I do if I want to see a Clinical Psychologist?

If you want to see a Clinical Psychologist within the NHS, you will normally need a referral from your GP.  So talk to them if you think that seeing a Psychologist will be helpful.  If you would like to see a Clinical Psychologist privately, a useful place to look is the British Psychological Society’s List of Chartered Psychologists which lists all Psychologists Chartered by the Society (the BPS is their professional body).

 What is the difference between a Clinical Psychologist and a therapist or a counsellor?

Clinical Psychologists have extensive training in assessing a range of psychological difficulties and determining the most appropriate form of help, as well as being trained in providing more than one type of therapy.  Clinical Psychologists will develop an individualised psychological formulation (shared understanding) drawing from psychological theory and research evidence, to inform therapeutic decisions about treatment options and goals.

Therapists and counsellors, on the other hand, usually specialise in providing one particular type of therapy, like psychodynamic psychotherapy, or counselling, or CBT. If you know what form of therapy would be most likely to help your problem, you might go directly to see a therapist or a counsellor.

Therapists and counsellors are not yet legally regulated professions, but many voluntarily register with one of the major professional bodies such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

How can I tell if the Clinical Psychologist I am seeing is a Registered Psychologist?

All Clinical Psychologists have to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) so you can visit their website to check this out.  ‘Clinical Psychologist’ is a protected term and only professionals meeting the HCPC registration criteria can use it.

From information provided in the BPS public leaflet, About Clinical Psychology