What is a Clinical Psychologist?

A clinical psychologist has post-graduate training in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions and psychological problems. To receive specialist endorsement by the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA), a clinical psychologist must complete a four-year undergraduate degree studying the science of psychology, and then a further four years that includes postgraduate study in clinical assessment and treatment and supervised practice. Clinical psychologists apply the Scientist-Practitioner Model to their work, using psychological research and evidence to guide them in selecting treatments that they then modify to meet the needs of each individual they work with. To remain endorsed clinical psychologists must abide by a strict code of professional conduct that has been developed for the welfare of their clients. In addition, each year they must participate in professional training to upgrade their knowledge and skills and engage in a process of supervision where they reflect on their work under the scrutiny of their peers.

At The Psychological Health Centre all of our psychologists are endorsed as clinical psychologists by PsyBA. All are committed to a continual process of learning about emerging developments in the human sciences and in psychological assessment and treatment. We all attend regular professional development activities (conferences, training workshops, lectures) and participate in ongoing supervision of our work. All of our psychologists are members of either the Clinical College of the Australian Psychological Society or the Australian Clinical Psychology Association.

What does a Clinical Psychologist do?

Clinical psychologists use the science of psychology to assess human problems and facilitate positive change.

At The Psychological Health Centre your clinical psychologist will meet with you for an initial assessment. They will be interested in understanding your reasons for seeking help and in setting goals for treatment. People commonly seek treatment for problems with emotion (perhaps anger or depression), problems with thinking (such as worrying or finding it hard to concentrate) or problems with behaviour (such as drinking too much or avoiding a particular action or activity). Sometimes people seek help but are unsure what the problem is. At other times the problem may already have been diagnosed as a recognised mental health condition.

clinical psychologist

Your psychologist will try to understand the problem using psychological principles and work with you to make sense of what you are experiencing. They will then develop a treatment plan, drawing on the research evidence and, importantly, working collaboratively with you. Sessions at The Psychological Health Centre are usually one hour in length. People usually attend weekly or fortnightly or sometime less frequently. The number of sessions can vary from one or two sessions to months or even several years.

Clinical psychologists adapt evidence-based therapies to the needs of individuals. A common evidence-based treatment is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). In recent years CBT has developed to include mindfulness based approaches. Our clinical psychologists therefore also draw on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT); Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT); Mindfulness integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (MiCBT). As research evidence emerges we continue to learn and utilise other approaches. Currently these include Schema Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

How is a clinical psychologist different to psychiatrists and other psychologists?

All of these professionals may work with similar types of problems however they are different in their training and approach.

Psychiatrists are medical specialists so are trained to look at human problems from a medical or illness perspective. Only medical professionals can consider medication and other biological approaches to treatment.

In addition to a clinical psychologist, there are many other types of generalist and specialist psychologists who are also registered under PsycBA. At a minimum all have completed at least four years of training in the science of psychology, a period of supervised experience and in many cases additional post graduate or other studies. The difference is that they have not completed specific clinical training at the Masters or Doctoral Level. All of the psychologists at The Psychological Health Centre have completed post graduate clinical training and each is a registered clinical psychologist.

Contact us at The Psychological Health Centre for more about what a clinical psychologist does