Dr. Ray’s Answer
Great question. In my experience both sensitivity to people and scientific knowledge are important. Obviously some basic interest in people is necessary to function effectively as a clinician and enjoy your work, and good clinicians are observant. However being able to fit what you observe into some kind of knowledge framework is equally important. For example if you are dealing with a person who is depressed it is important to know how it manifests itself. Some depressed patients report mostly physical symptoms such as fatigue vague somatic symptoms or sleep disturbance which a perceptive, but uninformed, person could misinterpret. Additionally assessing suicidal risk accurately requires specific training and information. In my opinion the best clinical psychology training programs give students a knowledge base in neurology, abnormal psychology, etc. and a lot of practical experience. In my doctoral program we began seeing clients in the first year, albeit in a limited way, and were given more responsibility as we progressed.
I have not addressed your more general question of whether a career in psychology is for you, since Ken did so in detail, but I want to add a few comments. The easiest way to see if you like the field is to take an introductory course, either in high school or college. There are many areas in psychology besides the clinical one which involve basic research into the mind and behavior. If you like science courses one of these might be for you.Also, I don't think you need to be in a hurry to declare a major in college. Give yourself a chance to see what fields are available. You might still decide on psychology as a major or you might discover some field you didn't know existed. I started out in college as a physics major and knew nothing about psychology until a friend suggested I take an introductory course.
Whatever your ultimate decision I wish you the best in pursuing your educational and career plans.
Ray Finn, Ph.D.