Clinical Psychologist

The Job and What's Involved

Clinical psychologists work with people who have a wide range of mental or physical health problems. These can include anxiety, depression, addictive or behavioural disorders, relationship problems, child and family problems, adjustment to physical illness, learning disabilities or serious mental illness. They aim to help clients to cope with their problems and make positive changes.

A clinical psychologist will start work with a client by assessing them to define their difficulties. They may do this through:

- Discussion with the client
- Observing the client's behaviour
- Using a range of psychometric tests

They then agree a programme of individually-tailored intervention or treatment. This can include:

- Therapy on a one-to-one basis or in a group
- Counselling
- Advice

Clinical psychologists monitor their clients' progress and keep written records. They usually work with a particular client group, for example adults with mental health conditions, children and families, or older adults. They form part of a team including doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

Most clinical psychologists work around 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Some evening and weekend working may be necessary. Part-time work may be available. They may work in hospitals, health centres, community mental health teams, child and adolescent mental health services and social services. Local travel is often required.

Salaries in the NHS may start at around £26,000 a year for a trainee clinical psychologist. Salaries in private practice vary.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

In addition to the general skills required by a psychologist, a clinical psychologist should have a strong interest in healthcare and science.

Most clinical psychologists work for the NHS, but there are also opportunities in private practice. Competition for assistant psychologist positions and postgraduate training is fierce, but there are good opportunities for qualified clinical psychologists.

Education and Training

To become a fully-qualified clinical psychologist, candidates must:

Complete an honours degree in psychology that is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) for the Graduate Basis for Registration (GBR). The degree should normally be at least an upper second.

Gain relevant work experience before applying for a place on a doctorate course. This could be as an assistant psychologist or research assistant, but experience in nursing or in social services may also be useful.

Complete a three-year, full-time Doctorate in clinical psychology. Entry is extremely competitive with less than thirty per cent of applicants being accepted each year.

For further information on becoming a clinical psychologist, see the Psychologist job guide.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

On completion of the Doctorate, most people become trainee clinical psychologists in the NHS. They are trained in-house and attend short courses.

Most psychologists apply for chartered status with the BPS. They are then required to take part in continuing professional development (CPD).

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A clinical psychologist should:

  • Have excellent problem-solving skills.
  • Have excellent listening and communication skills.
  • Have a good grasp of scientific techniques.
  • Have a strong interest in healthcare and science.
  • Have motivational skills.
  • Have patience and empathy.
  • Be able to inspire trust and confidence in people from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • Be able to explain complex issues to people who have little or no specialist knowledge.
  • Be observant and able to interpret people's body language as well as what they say.
  • Be able to produce clear, concise written reports.

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Your Long Term Prospects

Skilled, experienced clinical psychologists working in the NHS may specialise, or progress to managing a department or large section. There are also opportunities to work in training, teaching or research or to move into the private sector.

Get Further Information

Association of Business Psychologists (ABP),
211/212 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HG
Tel: 020 7917 1733

Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP),
4 The Riverside Centre, Frankland Lane, Durham DH1 5TA
Tel: 0191 384 5912

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP),
BACP House, 15 St John's Business Park, Lutterworth LE17 4HB
Tel: 01455 883300

The British Psychological Society (BPS),
St Andrews House, 48 Princess Road East, Leicester LE1 7DR
Tel: 0116 254 9568

The Health Professions Council (HPC),
Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 020 7582 0866

NHS Careers, PO Box 2311, Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 60 60 655
Website: and

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