Debra Bailey, Ph.D. Discusses the Everyday Life of Clinical Psychologist.
Clinical psychology is a branch of medicine that deals with mental, emotional, and behavioral problems and disorders. Clinical psychologists are university-educated healthcare professionals with the required credentials to practice clinical psychology.
Related but different from clinical psychiatry, psychology deals with the visible signs of mental health problems and disorders while psychiatry deals with the invisible (chemical, biological) signs of mental health problems and disorders.
So, what is the everyday life of a clinical psychologist like? We asked Debra Bailey, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, this question. As a Ph.D. Psychologist, Dr. Bailey’s work revolves around her clinical practice based in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Anyone with a mental health problem can see a clinical psychologist, says Debra Bailey, Ph.D. Although it may seem that only those with serious mental health issues should see a psychologist, they also offer help to people with short-term problems in daily living such as marital issues, coping with the loss of a loved one, and other counseling help.
Patients also come from a broad demographic and include everyone from young children to the elderly. Such patients may come with mental health problems, including anxiety and panic attacks, eating and learning disorders, post-traumatic stress, depression, among other emotional and behavioral problems. A clinical psychologist’s role is to receive all such patients and assess their condition, as Debra explains next.
Unlike lab tests, mental health assessments are more nuanced. Because each patient is different, there’s hardly ever any two identical cases, says Debra Bailey, Ph.D. In this sense, each patient must be assessed thoroughly to arrive at a correct diagnosis.
When a patient comes in, they must undergo a mental, emotional, and behavioral assessment that involves answering a variety of questions. From these questions, the clinical psychologist can either have a diagnosis or require further information.
Additional information may come from interviewing friends and family, investigating the patient’s health history, doing a physical assessment, as well as conducting further psychological tests. With enough information to inform a diagnosis, the clinical psychologist will then move to the next step — treating the patient.
Debra Bailey, Ph.D. explains that after a full assessment the clinical psychologist will form a diagnosis and either proceed with treating the patient themselves or refer them to another medical professional. Unlike psychiatrists and medical doctors, psychologists are not licensed to prescribe drugs.
As such, if a clinical psychologist opts to treat a patient, they will employ a variety of other non-drug treatments. Such treatments may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoanalytic or insight oriented psychotherapy, dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness, or supportive psychotherapy, among others.
The goal of these treatments is to help the patient better understand their thoughts and feelings, and change their behavior in order to understand and resolve problems faced, and improve their overall quality of life.
These treatments, however, are limited to only emotional, mental, and behavioral issues. Issues that extend beyond this may require a psychiatrist or other healthcare professional.
All in a Day’s Work
Clinical psychologists play an important role in the medical field. With close to one in five Americans experiencing a mental health problem in any given year, the need for these professionals is huge.
However, to benefit from the services of a clinical psychologist, individuals often must overcome the stigma and resistance that comes with admitting one may have a mental health problem. The best way to start, says Debra Bailey, Ph.D., is by seeing a clinical psychologist as a counselor — someone to talk to honestly and openly about the challenges they are facing in life.
Always keep in mind that going to see a clinical psychologist is not a sign of weakness or defeat, but rather a sign of courage and willingness to do what it takes to live a better life.