Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions:

How do clinical psychologists help people?

Clinical psychologists aim to reduce psychological distress and to enhance and promote psychological well-being. There are many areas of life where a clinical psychologist can help, including helping people manage anxiety, depression, health conditions such as cancer or chronic pain and assisting people who have difficulties in maintaining relationships. 

Whatever the problem, clinical psychologists will consider what scientific research says about its probable cause and what will be likely to help.  This would include seeing the person for a number of sessions to provide psychological therapy or giving advice on how to manage the difficulties that are being experienced. 

What training do clinical psychologists have?

Clinical psychologists are trained by the NHS, just like doctors and nurses, and most work there too. Clinical psychologists have a degree in psychology plus an additional three to five years of postgraduate experience and university training in applying the science of psychology to clinical problems. It therefore takes six to eight years to qualify as a Registered clinical psychologist, and the qualification that Registered clinical psychologists obtain is a doctorate in clinical psychology.

What is the difference between a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist?

Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists often work in the same clinics and see people with similar problems, but there is a clear difference in their key role. Clinical psychologists consider what the science of psychology tells them about how to help with the problem. Psychiatrists consider what the science of medicine tells them about how to help with the problem. For example, if you are depressed a psychiatrist is best placed to help you think about whether a biological treatment like antidepressant drugs may help. 

A clinical psychologist is best placed to help you think about whether a psychological therapy like cognitive behavioural therapy may help. They are each able to do this because the first stage in training as a clinical psychologist is a degree in psychology, whereas the first stage in training as a psychiatrist is a degree in medicine. 

What is the difference between a clinical psychologist and a therapist or a counsellor?

Clinical psychologists have extensive training in assessing a range of psychological difficulties and determining the most appropriate form of help, as well as being trained in providing more than one type of therapy. Therapists and counsellors usually specialise in providing one particular type of therapy, like psychodynamic psychotherapy, or counselling, or cognitive behaviour therapy. 

Therapists and counsellors are not as yet legally regulated professions, but many therapists and counsellors voluntarily register with one of the major professional bodies such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy or the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy.

How can I tell if the clinical psychologist I am seeing is a Registered Psychologist?

If you want to check whether a psychologist is legally registered you can enter their details on the website of the Health and Care Professions Council.

Information sourced from the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology. The British Psychological Society is the professional organisation for all psychologists.

                                                     All Copyright © Dr. Ramona Burrage 2012                                 Based in surrey