Being a clinical psychologist means working closely with your clients and providing a safe and understanding space for them to open up and talk about their issues.
The care for others and their mental health and wellbeing is key for a clinical psychologist. It’s all about having a passion for helping others and ensuring you can give them the best care to reach their full potential in life.
What is a clinical psychologist?
Clinical psychologists assess and treat clients for a range of mental health issues, emotional difficulties, conditions and disorders. They help make positive changes in their thinking and behaviours.
The difficulties for clients can vary in psychological difficulties including eating disorders, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Your role is to listen to their problems and help them understand why they’re thinking this way, and about their actions too. You will assess what’s wrong, provide them with a diagnosis and then talk them through management techniques, and how to overcome the issue or live with it. This can be through counselling, therapy or advice.
Clinical psychologists in the UK require a Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) which involves training at a Doctorate Level.
Clients for psychologists can range from children, teens, and adults, to groups such as families or couples and friends. The range of people and environments can be different from the next every day. You’ll also work with social workers, counselling psychologists and psychiatrists to help your client’s more complex issues.
Clinical psychologists' main goal is to care for their clients and advise them on their needs. These are the day-to-day responsibilities:
- Assess clients’ needs through psychometric tests, interviews and direct observation of their behaviour.
- Constantly research and develop your learning, and apply the research adding to the evidence base.
- Create appropriate treatment programmes and interventions such as therapy, counselling and advice, either individually or in a group.
- Evaluate the outcomes of treatments and their efficiency.
- Offer psychologist training to other team members.
- Provide consultation for other members of staff, encouraging a healthy approach to work.
- Provide clinical supervision for less experienced team members and psychologists.
- Write up legal reports and act as an expert witness in court.
As a clinical psychologist, salaries can vary. It depends on whether you’re working at the NHS, in a private hospital or private practice and your level of expertise. The NHS has an Agenda for Change, where pay scales increase depending on position and experience.
Trainee clinical psychologists within the NHS have a starting salary of £33,706 (Band 6 NHS pay bands). When qualified, your starting salary is £41,659 (Band 7). More experienced psychologists can range in salaries from £48,526-£65,262 (Band 8a and 8b). The next step up for consultant psychologists ranges from £67,064-£91,787 (Bands 8c and 8d). For heads of psychology services, you can earn between £95,135 - £109,475 (Band 9).
When based in London, the NHS pays a London high-cost area supplement at 20% of the basic salary for inner London, 15% for outer London and 5% for fringe areas.
When qualified, it’s crucial to stay up to date with relevant skills and new research.
Working in a private hospital or private practice, your salary could be higher as the rates are based on your discretion.
Clinical psychologists in the UK require a Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) which involves training at a Doctorate Level. You’ll need to complete a psychology degree and postgraduate Doctorate before applying for your chartered psychologist status. Training begins with a Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC), achieved by psychology degrees or alternative courses accredited by The British Psychological Society (BPS).
A Doctorate in Clinical Psychology is the next step, accredited by BPS and approved by the HCPC. To get a place on the Doctorate course, you’ll typically need either a first-class honours degree or a 2:1. Some providers may accept a 2:2 if you have a PhD or relevant Masters’ degree. Relevant work experience and research are a great addition to your course application as the courses are incredibly competitive. A DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check is also required.
The majority of Doctorate courses are full-time for three years. On the course, you’ll work as a trainee psychologist at the NHS and receive a salary. During this process, you’ll experience hands-on training and a structured programme of learning, including clinical placements and research. After completing a Doctorate, you can apply for registration with the HCPC and chartered psychologist status with the BPS.
Training and development
When qualified, it’s crucial to stay up to date with relevant skills and new research. As part of your registration with the HCPC and chartered membership of the BPS, continuing professional development (CPD) is essential with a selection of directed and self-directed activities.
Work experience is crucial to making it as a clinical psychologist.
From post-qualification training courses, attending conferences, workshops and events to mentoring and assessing trainees, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and develop your skills. The effort you put into your CPD contributes to the quality of your overall service delivery and your practice, benefiting your clients.
SkillsClinical psychologists have a caring and insightful nature. These key skills are what you require:
- A strong instinct for people’s reactions.
- Able to deal with sensitive topics and remain calm throughout.
- Application of your psychologist knowledge and research to various problems.
- Be critical of your work and apply a self-motivated approach to your day.
- Collaborate with your colleagues from other disciplines.
- Determination for Success.
- Driver licence for local travel.
- Empathetic and person-focused approach to clients.
- Excellent written communication skills.
- General IT skills and strong time management skills.
- Recognise personal limitations and respond well to difficult situations.
- Strong understanding of your profession and what is required of you.
- Strong use of communication and interpersonal skills.
- Think clearly in hard and challenging scenarios.
Work experience is crucial to making it as a clinical psychologist. You’ll require at least 12 months of experience to enter a Doctorate course. The courses vary in their requirements. Some required experience needs to be for a specific length and will tell you how to get the experience.
Some course providers are interested in experience as an assistant psychologist in an NHS department, under the supervision of a clinical psychologist.
Other relevant experiences can include clinically-oriented research to develop your understanding of clinical psychology practice. Working in nursing, social work, mental health work, and care work, whether paid or voluntary can also be useful. Alternatively, any experience in groups or services directly linked to clinical psychology and working hands-on with people with health or psychological difficulties can be a great benefit.
There’s also the option of an apprenticeship to enter this field of work. It’s called a clinical associate in psychology integrated apprenticeship. Within this role, you’ll work under a registered clinical psychologist and the job sits between a psychology assistant and a qualified clinical psychologist.
Clinical psychologists assess and treat clients for a range of mental health issues, emotional difficulties, conditions and disorders.
To apply for an apprenticeship, you’ll need a completed relevant >psychology degree that is BPS accredited.
Working within the NHS, there’s a structured career path where you can progress through pay bands, develop your experience and move into higher roles. There’s also the option to specialise in areas of clinical psychology such as addiction, clinical health psychology, psychosis and complex mental health and clinical neuropsychology.
Further development can include moving into clinical management roles and taking on more responsibility for both staff and clinical psychology services. Alternatively, those with the right level of skills and experience can apply for consultant-level positions and even move to heads of speciality posts available.
Other routes to go down can include supervision, teaching and training of other clinical psychologists or moving into clinical academic research. You could even work with children, young offenders or people with addictions. Another option is to work as a freelance consultant, advising clients or other professionals. Alternatively, you can start a psychology practice.