4 answers

As an opinion, does clinical psychology rely more on the people to people aspect; being able to read patients and listen to their problems, or the scientific, neurological aspect?

Asked Bernardston, Massachusetts

I am wondering if I have a possible future in clinical psychology and would like more experienced opinions on what this entails. #psychology #mental-health #mental-health-counseling #mental-health-care

4 answers

Carmen’s Answer

Updated San Antonio, Texas

When I read this question, I interpret it as you asking if clinical counselors can be a therapist or if instead of working with people, they work in a lab, doing research or medical testing. Is that right? I found this article to help you out. But to simplify it, any licensed psychologists can work as a therapist. You may find an area you want to focus on, like working with children, as time goes on. It's not uncommon for people to try different things over their career.

I am more familiar with social work, which is another type of counseling degree. In Texas, we have Licensed Clinical Social Workers, who provide therapy and can diagnose mental problems.

"Clinical psychologists have traditionally studied disturbances in mental health, while counseling psychologists’ earliest role was to provide vocational guidance and advice.Today, though, the differences between psychologists from each specialty are more nuanced, and there are perhaps more similarities than differences among individual psychologists from each field."


Thank you!

Dr. Ray’s Answer

Updated Fort Worth, Texas

Dear Madeline,

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.

Thank you for your insight! It is very appreciated and helpful.

Mark’s Answer

Updated Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

For a Clinical Psychologist, it is primarily about the person to person.

Jared’s Answer


In Ontario (Canada) Clinical psychologists are involved in testing/assessment/diagnosis for psychological and learning disorders and provide psychotherapeutic treatment for those disorders. Some may also be involved in research, usually of a clinical (applied) nature. The study of clinical psychology is rooted in neurobiology and cognitive science with the application of specific protocols for assessment and treatment. You will also complete a clinical residency focused on attainment of assessment and treatment skills. Most clinical psychology programs in North America are dominated by cognitive and behavioural schools of thought and as such provide training in cognitive behavioural therapy and residencies focused on this form of treatment. If your goal is to learn to provide Psychotherapy individually (or to couples/families/groups) you may wish to explore programs in counselling psychology or social work as they offer a faster route to attaining these skills and more flexibility in the treatment modalities you will learn and apply.