Psychologists are employed in many fields, including health care. They study human behavior and the human mind. Rising costs of health care cause those who reimburse for care to examine the factors that contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle. Some of those factors include smoking, overeating, job stress, and addiction. Psychologists who specialize in health care issues are trained to help people deal with these and other issues affecting their health status.
Duties, Activities, and Scope of Practice
Clinical and counseling psychologists work with patients to help improve their lifestyle, promote wellness, and achieve an improved health status. Clinical psychologists in the three areas of health care include health psychologists, neuropsychologists, and geropsychologists.
Health psychologists help patients achieve goals such as losing weight and quitting smoking. Neuropsychologists work with patients with brain injuries and strokes to help them to adjust to the limitations imposed by the injury to the brain. They study the relationship between the brain and behavior and help patients to improve their behavior. Geropsychologists help patients to cope with the problems and lifestyle changes presented by aging.
Education and Training
To become an independent licensed clinical or counseling psychologist, a doctoral degree in psychology (a Psy.D.) is required. A bachelor's degree is the first step, followed by graduate study, which usually takes five to seven years to accomplish. The degree is usually based on examinations and practical work instead of a dissertation. For clinical and counseling work, an internship of one or two years is also required. Those with a bachelor's degree in psychology can assist psychologists in mental health centers.
Psychologists involved in patient care must meet certification or licensing requirements set by each state and the District of Columbia. These requirements vary by state and are specific to the type of position in which the psychologist has been educated and trained. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) recognizes clinical and counseling psychologists. They require a doctoral degree, postdoctoral training in the specialty area, and one to two years of professional experience. In addition, a candidate must pass a state licensing examination.
Work Settings and Salaries
Clinical and counseling psychologists practice most often from private offices and in clinics. They usually set their own hours and often offer evening and weekend hours in order to accommodate the needs of their patients.
Hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities may hire psychologists to work as members of the staff. In these cases, the psychologists may work varying shifts, which can include evenings and weekends as well.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2004 clinical, counseling, and school psychologists made a median income of $54,950. Salaries ranged from about $32,000 to $93,000. The median income for industrial organization psychologists was $71,400 in 2004, and salaries ranged from $45,000 to $125,000.
Career Potential and Additional Information
This profession expects to grow at a faster rate than the average of all professions over the next decade. With the aging population and the rising costs of health care that are associated with health challenges such as smoking and obesity, the need for clinical and counseling psychologists is expected to have healthy growth.
You can obtain more information about a career as a clinical or counseling psychologist from the American Psychological Association. Their Web site is