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Which is best to part of psychology is best to major in: clinical or counseling?

I will be attending college to major in psychology. I was pretty sure that I wanted to study in clinical psychology, but as the time gets closer to next fall I wonder if I should go into counseling psychology. I would like to help general people with everyday problems (like why they are failing school, why something is not working out for them, etc) and people who have disorders (ADD, depression, etc). I am just so confused on what is best to go in, but I do know I would like to be a therapist.

#psychology #clinical-psychology #counseling-psychology #therapy

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Dr. Ray’s Answer

Dear Khamedriah,

I agree with Linda's response which seems very complete to me. I will only add that doctoral programs in clinical and counseling psychology are very similar, and it doesn't make much difference which you graduate from as far as what kinds of jobs for you are qualified. My degree was in clinical psychology but I worked for a time in a university counseling center. I also know people with counseling psychology degrees who have worked in psychiatric hospitals and mental health clinics which deal with more severe problems. Some people have a preference for working problems of normal people, which you seem to be implying about yourself. If that is true you might prefer a counseling psychology program, but again there is a very thin line between the two.

I would also like to reinforce Linda's comments that the path to becoming a fully licensed psychologist is a long one, and you should also look at master's degree programs in counseling and social work, which would allow you to be licensed after two years of graduate school. Unfortunately there are very few jobs that require a bachelor's degree in psychology, but probation officers and child protective service workers are ones that do.

I encourage you to keep exploring and gathering information, for example by talking to your school counselor. You have plenty of time to make these decisions so try not to stress about them. I wish you the best in your career and life pursuits.

Ray Finn, Ph.D.

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Linda Ann’s Answer


It is great that you have a focus even before entering the university in the fall to pursue counseling psychology. Know this, however: you will need more than a bachelor's degree to become a counselor to people who are having adjustment problems in their lives. Psychology, as a discipline, is a lot more than just providing mental health counseling or therapy. Only about 1/3 of psychologists serve in such a capacity.

I recommend that you explore at the website of the American Psychological Association (www.apa.org ) to explore the richness that is the discipline of psychology. What I am suggesting to you is this: to learn about all of the options that are available in this discipline. For example, you mentioned working with children who are failing in school. Well, there's a specialty called "school psychology;" so I would recommend learning more about this specialty. Many school psychologists can practice their craft with just a master's degree...

In the case of clinical and counseling psychology, a doctorate is generally required to obtain licensure...getting into a doctoral program in clinical psychology is very difficult because of the popularity of the undergraduate psychology major. Counseling psychology programs are a little less competitive though.

Another option for therapy is the LPC credential. That abbreviation stands for "Licensed Professional Counselor." That credential requires a master's degree plus additional coursework that generally varies by state. You can learn more about this credential by going to the website of the American Counseling Association.

Good luck!!!

Linda Ann recommends the following next steps:

Go to the APA website to learn more about the discipline of psychology and all of the things that psychologists do.
Explore in particular these 3 subfields by going to the "divisions" link at the APA website: clinical, counseling, school.
Go to the website of the American Counseling Association to find out more about the LPC credential for the state in which you might want to practice.
Explore colleges and universities that offer a master's degree in "school psychology" that provides the certification required to be a school psychologist.

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Saiber’s Answer

It depends on your interest.

The top answers have been very informative and I'd follow those.

I just wanted to add the things you decsribed are gearing more towards Counseling psychology than clinical. I am into counseling and you'd need a Masters degree to practise and get your licensure. It's a rewarding field.

Moreover College will help you with your decision as well. The electives and courses will give you some idea as to what to expect and you can move forward with that in mind.

You are doing a great job being proactive and you'll be just fine. :)

Saiber recommends the following next steps:

Look at job descriptions of these roles on LinkedIn and see what you like more.