Congratulations! You’ve decided on the path of psychology for your life. You love discussions on psychopathology, you find the brain more intriguing that the stars that circle above, and you are filled with the desire to help people with all sorts of problems. But what after that?
Of the many fields available to peruse at the undergraduate level, psychology is the one with the most subcategories. If you are anything like myself, the differences between clinical psychology and counseling psychology seem to be incredibly small – and yet they fulfill entirely different subsections of the vast realm of psychology. With these choices looming, it becomes increasingly laborious to search the vast WWW in search of a simple comparison of these two careers. Enter my (hopefully) comprehensive guide to clinical vs. counseling psychology.
Traditionally speaking, clinical psychologists provide aid to mentally ill patients – in the bluntest sense of the word. They will provide care, diagnosis, and treatment of a patient with a mental illness, behavioral or emotional disorder, or another psychiatric problem. The approaches used by a clinical psychologist can be multidimensional – employing individual sessions, family therapy or group therapy sessions. They can also design and implement behavior modification programs with the goals of perhaps reducing SIB (self-injurious behavior) or increasing the future frequency of desired behaviors. Clinical psychologists work in a variety of settings including hospitals, mental health clinics, and private practice.
Regardless of your path, both clinical and counseling usually needs a doctoral degree in order to practice professionally. A Psy.D. is recommended for the aspiring Clinical Psychologist, as it provides real-life experience based on practical experience and examinations, instead of the Ph.D. path, which requires research, a comprehensive exam, and culminates in a dissertation.
The amount of experience a person has will seriously impact potential income, but clinical psychologists can expect to earn approximately $74,030 per year.
This path has tended to focus on the aim of providing counsel (the root of the word) or advice in people’s everyday lives. You may often find that today counseling psychologists place emphasis on their traditional roles of working with a “normal” (is normal even such a thing? Read more here) client population, or perhaps more accurately those who have not been affected by a serious or persistent mental illness. These sessions tend to revolve around the patient being able to identify problem areas and then developing unique strategies to implement their individual strengths in solving such issues.
An important – perhaps the most important quality of a counseling psychologist is their ability to create a relaxing environment to enable the patient to open up about potentially uncomfortable situations. Counseling psychologists can be employed in a wide range of settings including college and university counseling centers, university research and teaching positions, independent practice, health care settings, hospitals, organizational consulting groups, and many others.
As was stated before, you should (really really should) obtain a doctoral degree for professional practice. Typically recommended for aspiring counseling psychologists is the Ph.D. which will require a year-long internship of practical experience within a counseling setting.They also are licensed in all 50 states as “licensed psychologists”, just as clinical psychologists are.
Of course, this number can change within the field itself, but counseling psychologists can expect to earn approximately $72,540 per year.
The most telling difference between Counseling and Clinical is perhaps the individual’s particular training and emphasis within their education (i.e. was it developmental, in a clinical environment, etc). Hopefully, this breakdown has helped you reason through some of the finite differences between these two careers. No matter what you may think now, please be sure to check in with an academic advisor to learn more about how these different careers may apply to your individual situation.