psychological therapies
Picture of Dr Tanya McDonnaugh

Dr Tanya McDonnaugh

Clinical Psychologist and founder of Talk.Manage.Change

What is a Clinical Psychologist?

I’m often approached by clients who are not quite sure if a Clinical Psychologist is the right person to help them. It can be so confusing trying to differentiate between different mental health professionals, particularly as so many of them start with word Psych! (Clinical Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Psychotherapists ….) I hope this article will shed some light on the role of Clinical Psychologists so that you will know if a Clinical Psychologist is the right person for you.
The word psychology comes from Greek and literally means the study of the mind. Psychologists specialise in the scientific study of people, the mind and behaviour; they seek to understand how people think, feel and behave, both on an individual and a social level. There are different types of psychologists, and some specialise in certain areas (e.g. Forensic Psychologists, Occupational Psychologists, Educational Psychologists). You might be interested to know that the word psychologist is not a protected title, so pretty much anyone with an undergraduate degree in psychology can call them themselves a Psychologist. However, this does not mean that they have specific training, or are qualified to diagnose or treat psychological issues. Clinical Psychologists hold a protected title, and have specialist training which enables us to do this safely and effectively.
So what do Clinical Psychologists do? Clinical Psychologists work to enhance well-being and reduce psychological distress. We do this using a process called psychological formulation. Psychological formulation involves applying evidence-based scientific knowledge to diagnose the type of problem (e.g. anxiety, low mood), to establish why the problem exists and what is maintaining it, and then to use specific evidence-based psychological treatments to effect real change. Clinical Psychologists are trained to deal with a wide range of psychological, emotional, behavioural and physical problems including: addiction, anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, brain injury, to name but a few.
Here are a few important facts about the training, accreditation and governance of Clinical Psychologists in the UK:
  • They will have completed an undergraduate degree in psychology
  • This will be followed by a 3-year Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy) from an accredited institution.
  • Once qualified, practising Clinical Psychologists must be registered with the Health Care and Professions Council (HCPC) as Practitioner/ Registered Psychologists.
  • Clinical Psychologists are also trained to produce and understand scientific research and some might have published papers in academic journals.
  • They are usually trained in several models of therapy which are particularly effective at treating certain disorders, such as: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT), and Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR).
  • Clinical Psychologists are encouraged to engage in regular supervision and must attend training to contribute to their continued professional development.
  • They do not and cannot prescribe medication.
You will find Clinical Psychologists practising in different areas, including:
  • Child mental health
  • Adult mental health
  • Adoption and Children
  • Looked After services
  • University and research institutions
  • Neuropsychology and
  • Brain injury
  • Learning disabilities
  • Forensic
  • Addiction
  • Sexual health
  • Schools and education
  • Corporate or business
Becoming a Clinical Psychologist in the UK takes a long time and it would be unusual for the journey to take less than 8 years from the start of an undergraduate degree. For this reason Clinical Psychologists are usually deeply passionate and motivated about their profession and helping to improve well-being and alleviate psychological distress.
To find out more about Clinical Psychologists or the role of Clinical Psychology visit:

Share this post