Clinical psychology is the psychological specialty that provides continuing and comprehensive mental and behavioral health care for individuals and families; consultation to agencies and communities; training, education and supervision; and research-based practice. It is a specialty in breadth — one that is broadly inclusive of severe psychopathology — and marked by comprehensiveness and integration of knowledge and skill from a broad array of disciplines within and outside of psychology. The scope of clinical psychology encompasses all ages, multiple diversities, and varied systems.
While the early focus in clinical psychology had been largely on science and research, graduate programs began adding additional emphasis on psychotherapy. In clinical psychology Ph.D. programs, this approach is today referred to as the scientist-practitioner or Boulder Model. Later, the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree option emerged, which placed a greater emphasis on professional practice rather than research. This practice-oriented doctorate in clinical psychology is known as the practitioner-scholar, or Vail model.
The field has continued to grow tremendously, and the demand for clinical psychologists today remains strong.
Clinical psychologists who work as psychotherapists often utilize different treatment approaches when working with clients. While some clinicians focus on a very specific treatment outlook, many use what is referred to as an "eclectic approach." This involves drawing on different theoretical methods to develop the best treatment plan for each client.
Some of the major theoretical perspectives within clinical psychology include:
Psychodynamic approach: This perspective grew out of Freud's work; he believed that the unconscious mind plays an important role in our behavior. Psychologists who utilize psychoanalytic therapy may use techniques such as free association to investigate a client's underlying, unconscious motivations.
Cognitive-behavioral perspective: This approach to clinical psychology developed from the behavioral and cognitive schools of thought. Clinical psychologists using this perspective will look at how a client's feelings, behaviors, and thoughts interact. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) often focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors that contribute to psychological distress.