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Clinical Psychology Programs - Clinical Psychology Programs: Considering the Options

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Clinical psychology programs can prepare the student for a number of professions in the mental health field. The exact program of study is determined by what the student hopes to do with their degree, and whether or not it involves research.

Broadly speaking, psychology is subdivided into many categories, some of which are intended to lead the student into professions which bear little resemblance to the popular notion of psychology. Students may go into research, teaching or applied psychology, each of which has its own set of subfields.

Clinical psychology falls in the area of applied psychology, and involves a therapist dealing with individuals who have sought help for a mental health problem. Students going into this area can get a Psy.D. or Ph.D in clinical psychology, a degree in clinical social work or a degree in school psychology. Since the end result is different for each of these, the amount and type of study also differs.

There are various approaches to clinical psychology. Programs may be oriented toward psychoanalytic, cognitive, behavioral or biological approaches, or in some cases a combination of these.

The clinical psychology degree that involves the longest and most involved program of training is a Ph.D. This program lasts for at least five years, including an internship in the fifth or sixth year. Students will learn about mental health problems and their treatment, as well as the various issues associated with the clinical psychology field. Since research is a big part of a Ph.D. program, these programs usually involve courses in designing experiments and the statistics used in conducting research. A Ph.D. student is expected to design a research project that will provide the basis for a dissertation. The student will receive help in designing this project from advisory faculty members.

In addition to research, the Ph.D. student receives training in psychotherapy and psychological testing. These are usually concentrated in the later part of the program.

Besides the graduate work, there is the internship. During this time, the student will be working at an institution such as a hospital, mental health center or clinic. The student must take the responsibility for applying to the institution for the position.

Since the Ph.D. program involves so much research, an alternative has been devised that places more emphasis on clinical work. This is the program of study that leads to a Psy.D. degree. A Psy.D. program still requires some research work, but much less than a Ph.D. program does. Students wishing to go into psychotherapy, relationship and marriage counselling, etc., may wish to consider this line of study.

Since the program of study leading to a Psy.D. is oriented more toward clinical work than research, it usually involves more internship work in a wider variety of settings than the Ph.D. program does.

Students who receive a Psy.D. can hope to find employment in private practice, clinics or hospitals.

Students hoping to go into school psychology are usually trained in departments of education rather than psychology, and is oriented specifically toward working in a school setting. Because of this, students in this area gain an understanding of the educational system as well as psychology. People in this field do testing and counseling, either working with students or faculty. School psychologists can also work in private practice, and many do.

Those wishing to go into clinical social work will follow a different program of study oriented toward working in a social welfare or mental health system. Research is generally not the focus, and the emphasis on psychotherapy and counseling is not as great as in other programs of study. However, there is some emphasis on group work, and many clinical social workers are involved in group psychotherapy programs.

Students who pursue clinical social work can hope to find employment in social programs, clinics, hospitals or private practice.

In some areas, there may be a perception that a Psy.D. or an MSW (Masters of Social Work) is less prestigious than other clinical psychology degrees, but this is founded more on prejudice than fact. Persons with Psy.D. or MSW degrees do good work in many settings, and employment prospects in some places are quite good. California, for instance, has an extensive Psy.D. system.

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