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A clinical psychologist practices the assessment and treatment of a variety of mental illnesses, psychiatric problems, and abnormal behaviors. The term clinical psychologist was first coined by Lightner Witmer in a paper published in 1907. Mr. Witmer defined the discipline as "the study of individuals, by observation or experimentation, with the intention of promoting change."
It is a certainty that much has changed in the practice of clinical psychology over the intervening years-, significant advancements have been made, vital lessons have been learned. So, what do you learn in clinical psychology? Here are five important insights that psychologists have gained throughout their years of counseling psychology practice.
1. Connect with patients
Cultivating a personal connection and understanding between the patient and the clinician is an important part of the clinical mental health counseling and therapy process. Failing to do so is a major reason for poor clinical counseling and treatment experiences. Clinical psychologist Deborah Serani in a Psych Central interview states, "Being in therapy is unlike any other kind of professional relationship in that the connection between patient and therapist needs to 'click'. Just one bad experience can shut a person down, turn them off to a new therapist, and leave them disinterested and even disgusted by the entire mental health system." This does not mean the patient and therapist have to have a close friendship, but the licensed psychologist or therapist should have a good understanding of the patient's development in order to address their specific needs.
While clinical counseling and a treatment approach for a mental disorder may have its rules and standard procedures, every patient is different. The licensed psychologist must be able to tailor their approach to the specific requirements of the moment.
3. Be authentic
Developing a relationship of trust and confidence with a patient requires the clinical psychologist to be 'authentic, and unafraid to express emotions and honest feelings during the clinical mental health counseling. By doing so in their professional practice, they encourage a reciprocal relationship of authenticity with the patient. According to psychologist Ron Brafman, writing in Psychology Today, “As a therapist, it's not just about being authentic myself, one of my goals is to work with my clients to form an authentic and meaningful relationship and assist them in developing an authentic sense of their own selves...it's one of the chief goals of therapy.”
4. Be patient
Just as every client is different, so is their rate of progress in therapy. It is easy for a clinical psychologist to become frustrated with a patient who does not seem to make any headway or refuses to let go of false beliefs and unjustified perspectives. A therapist in clinical practice must be patient and let them progress at their own pace.
5. Trust in the human spirit
A therapist sees a lot of suffering and pain in their patients, and it can be very disheartening. Yet the therapist must never underestimate the power of the human spirit and keep strong the will to facilitate healing and overcome barriers. Even in the face of debilitating psychological disorders and mental illness, most patients can find hope, happiness, and lead routine daily lives.
Embracing these five fundamentals of therapy will help aspiring clinical psychologists have a greater impact and be more effective in their clinical practice and in the lives of their patients. Broaden your counseling psychology knowledge in a clinical setting or develop your professional practice by undertaking a graduate program. If you're interested in advancing your career in clinical psychology, the California School of Professional Psychology offers APA-accredited PhD in clinical psychology & PsyD in clinical psychology degree programs.