Clinical psychologists aim to reduce psychological distress and enhance and promote psychological wellbeing. They work with people who have a wide range of problems including anxiety, depression, addictive or behavioural disorders, relationship problems, child and family problems, learning disabilities or serious mental illness. They aim to help clients to cope with their problems and to make positive changes.
A clinical psychologist will start work with a client by assessing the individual to define their difficulties. The psychologist may do this through:
- discussion with the client
- observing the client’s behaviour
- using a range of psychometric tests.
The psychologist and client then agree a programme of individually-tailored intervention or treatment. This can include:
- therapy on a one-to-one basis or in a group
Clinical psychologists monitor their clients’ progress and keep written records. They usually work with a particular client group, for example adults with mental health conditions, children and families, or older adults. Clinical psychologists form part of a team which includes doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
Most clinical psychologists work around 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Some evening and weekend working may be necessary. Part-time work may be available. They work in hospitals, psychiatric units, health centres, community mental health teams, child and adolescent mental health services and social services. Local travel is often required.
Once qualified as a clinical psychologist, you can earn between £30,764 and £40,558.
Consultant clinical psychologists can earn up to £81,618.
Salary levels outside the NHS will vary depending on your employer.
It is particularly important for clinical psychologists to be able to tolerate distressing and difficult emotions. In addition, they should:
- be an excellent communicator
- possess strong academic ability, with an interest in the mind and behaviour
- have a good grasp of scientific techniques
- be able to inspire trust and confidence.
Most clinical psychologists work for the NHS, but there are also opportunities in universities and in private practice. Competition is fierce for postgraduate training and for positions providing relevant work experience (for example, as assistant psychologist), but there are good opportunities for qualified clinical psychologists.
To become a qualified clinical psychologist and to register with the Health Professions Council, candidates must:
Complete an honours degree in psychology that is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) as giving eligibility for the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC).
Gain relevant work experience before applying for a place on a doctorate course. This experience could be as an assistant psychologist or research assistant. Experience in nursing or in social services may also be useful.
Complete a three-year, full-time doctorate in clinical psychology. The NHS funds this period of training – those who gain a place are employed by the NHS as trainee clinical psychologists, and combine their academic study and research with clinical practice.
Skilled, experienced clinical psychologists working in the NHS may specialise or progress to managing a department or large section. There are also opportunities to work in training, teaching or research or to move into the private sector.