Clinical psychologist

A clinical psychologist works with people with a wide range of mental or physical health problems. They aim to reduce psychological distress and promote psychological well-being.

The work of a clinical psychologist

Clinical psychologists work with people with a wide range of illnesses, conditions and disorders. These might include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • serious and enduring mental illness
  • adjustment to physical illness
  • neurological disorders
  • addictive behaviours
  • childhood developmental and behaviour disorders
  • personal and family relationship problems

The work involves interaction with, and receiving referrals from, a wide range of other professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers and occupational therapists. Most clinical psychologists work in Health and Social Care, but some do work privately and in other agencies.

To assess a client, a clinical psychologist may do a clinical assessment using a variety of methods, including:

  • psychometric tests
  • interviews
  • direct observation of behaviour

Assessment may lead to psychological therapy. A significant part of the clinical psychologist’s role is to provide consultation, advice and supervision for other professionals involved in the care or treatment of an individual.

Skills required

Essential skills required to be a clinical psychologist include:

  • good interpersonal skills
  • an enquiring mind
  • an interest in all aspects of human behaviour
  • want to help people to overcome personal difficulties
  • maturity and objectivity

Training programmes

The following undergraduate programmes are available in Northern Ireland. Both courses are full-time three year programmes. Contact the universities for the latest information on entry requirements.

Postgraduate Doctoral level (three year) courses are required in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, this training is provided through the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast.

Places on this training programme are advertised in the local press around February of each year of intake.

Career pathway

Following qualification, graduates can expect to work and further develop in the profession for a minimum of six years before being eligible to compete for a consultant level position.

At that level, a small number of clinical psychologists might expect to become Heads of Specialty – for example, Adult Mental Health, Child and Adolescent or overall head of a psychology service.

Professional recognition

The British Psychological Society is the professional chartered body for clinical psychologists. Practitioner psychologists are regulated by the Health Professions Council (HPC).

Clinical Psychologists must be registered with the HPC before they can practice in the UK. The titles ‘registered psychologist’ and ‘practitioner psychologist’ are generic titles which can be used by any HPC registered psychologist.

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