In this last article in our series on various mental health professions, we will focus on clinical psychologists. In imaginary rankings, this is one of the most specialized and expert roles in the field. However, more in the article below:
What does a clinical psychologist do?
- A clinical psychologist focuses on the emotional, intellectual, psychosocial, and biological aspects of human functioning.
- His work consists mainly in the identification (i.e., diagnosis) of psychological problems and mental illnesses, using a variety of testing and questionnaire methods or through observation and clinical interview, both in children and adults.
- Based on the diagnosis, the clinical psychologist then recommends further appropriate care, for example with a psychotherapist. In practice, however, most clinical psychologists also have psychotherapy training and provide this follow-up care to clients (see previous article psychotherapist).
What training does a clinical psychologist need to have?
- The following is applicable primarily for the Czech republic. Other countries may have specific legislation and/or standards.
- The clinical psychologist must be a graduate of a master’s degree in psychology (M.A.) and must complete subsequent professional specialization. First, the future clinical psychologist must pass the psychology attestation exam following a pre-attestation five-year training (similar to that for doctors), where he/she is further trained and works under the supervision of more experienced colleagues.
- It is because of the expertise, specialisation and training attained, the ability to diagnose and ideally follow-up therapy, that the inherent advantage of clinical psychologists is the ability to gain a complete picture of the personality and psychological difficulties of the client/patient and therefore an even more targeted or accurate referral or treatment.
Does the clinical psychologist work in the public or private sector?
- Clinical psychologist can mostly commonly be seen in public health care, which is covered by insurance, for example in various medical departments such as surgery, oncology, neurology or psychiatry, or in an independent psychological outpatient clinic.
- At the same time, clinical psychologists can also work in private practice, where their care is paid for by clients, is mainly psychotherapeutically oriented, and is intended for people with and without mental illness.
- In practice, it is common for clinical psychologists, especially if they work for an insurance company, to have long appointment times of several months.
- However, a significant advantage is the system-guaranteed and monitored level of training and expertise.
What is the difference between clinical psychology and psychotherapy?
- Clinical psychologists are most often encountered in the health care sector (for example, in outpatient clinics or even wards in hospitals or psychiatric clinics). His/her work and expertise are closely related to psychiatry and he/she has the competence to make a comprehensive diagnosis of mental health problems and other recommendations for appropriate care. If he or she has psychotherapy training, he or she may also provide psychotherapy paid for by insurance or by the client in private practice.
- However, a therapist or psychologist does not offer these clinical services (i.e., psychodiagnosis and insurance-covered psychotherapy).
What is the difference between a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist?
- A psychiatrist is a physician (M.D.) who graduated from medical school and subsequently specialized in the field of psychiatry in his pre-service training, from which he also passed an examination.
- A psychiatrist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and psychiatric disorders. He or she may prescribe medications that affect mental function (called psychopharmaceuticals, see our previous articles), perform physical examinations and evaluate laboratory results, for example, recommend and administer other treatments for mental illness (such as electroconvulsive therapy, ECT), or recommend hospitalization.
- If a psychiatrist also receives psychotherapy training as part of his or her continuing education, he or she may provide psychotherapy as part of his or her care.
- The care of a psychiatrist is very important and often necessary, especially for intense and/or prolonged psychiatric difficulties. In combination with psychotherapeutic care (psychotherapist/psychologist/clinical psychologist), the client/patient has the opportunity to receive a comprehensive approach to his/her mental illness.
What forms of public psychiatric or psychological care exist?
- Psychiatric care, i.e. the treatment of people with psychiatric problems and mental illnesses, can be basically divided into outpatient care (only a visit to a specialist, most often lasting about 15-90 minutes) and inpatient care (this represents hospitalization, i.e. a stay of varying length in a specialist facility – psychiatric hospitals, psychiatric wards within hospitals, private psychiatric clinics).
- Transitional community care is also in practice throughout the world, which does not attempt to remove the patient from his or her usual environment, as is the case with hospitalisation.
- In the Czech Republic, mental health centres are now being built and are already in operation, functioning as an intermediate step between outpatient and inpatient care. Examples include day hospitals (therapeutic and therapeutic day programmes only), sheltered workshops, workplaces or even housing, which on the one hand allow clients to be independent and simulate normal functioning, but with a degree of professional support or care.
With this last article, we gave you an overview of the care available for your mental health. We hope this series has helped you to become more familiar with who to see for what problems. This is also a reminder of our previous articles on emergency contacts, counselling psycholoses and psychotherapists. Choosing the right help is key and we keep our fingers crossed for you on your journey.