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10 Clinical Psychology Research Topics to Explore

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Published on: 06/12/2024
Last Updated: 06/12/2024
8 minute read

Whether you’re working toward a PsyD or a PhD in Clinical Psychology, landing on a research paper that will sustain your interest throughout your doctoral program can be both thrilling and challenging.

Should you go with a niche you know well or branch out to another psychology specialization? Should you choose a research topic you’re passionate about or opt for something more topical and needed in the broader realm of behavioral and mental health?

Only you can answer these questions—however, this blog may provide you with some inspiration and direction. Let’s walk through 10 of the most fascinating clinical psychology research topics and how they might bring you closer to your educational and professional objectives.

Explore Clinical Psychology Programs

10 Emerging Research Topics in Clinical Psychology

One of the benefits of clinical psychology is that it’s far from a static field.

With each passing year, we gain more and more insight into the brain and how it affects behavior. In the last few years alone, for example, we’ve obtained a clearer picture of the negative effects of digital media on mental health and behavior. But we’ve also seen how digital media (specifically, mobile apps) can enhance mental health when used correctly.1

Put simply, clinical psychology is a dynamic, exhilarating realm with seemingly boundless possibilities for further research.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when settling on a clinical psychology research paper topic, especially when it’s one that you may be intimate with for years. To that end, consider these top 10 psychology topics to get you started in your research area:

#1. Mental Health Technology and Digital Interventions

The pandemic dramatically altered how healthcare practitioners interact with their patients and clients. Whereas psychotherapy and other forms of counseling were once performed almost exclusively in person, COVID-19 turned mental telehealth into our new reality.

But what might the long-term effects of this be? And will it persist as we march into the future?

Exploring the impact of digital mental health interventions (such as apps, other digital tools, and teleconferences) on well-being may open up a world of possible clinical psychology research topics and questions.2 For instance, it may compel you to ask and research thoughts like:

  • How will AI alter mental health treatments, if at all?
  • Will digital mental health interventions ultimately cause or worsen isolation?
  • What are the downsides and perks of turning to social media for mental health information?
  • What is the relevance and value of in-person counseling sessions, post-pandemic?
  • Do clients feel safer in online sessions?
  • How can technology be employed to monitor patients outside of sessions?
  • How does mental telehealth affect the elderly?

Technology is rapidly and constantly changing. In other words, psychology and technology may be exciting subjects to explore as you work towards starting or completing your doctorate.

#2. Cross-Cultural and Global Mental Health 

Globalization has its pros and cons. Studies indicate that while it may have its advantages, it can also heighten:4

  • Discrimination
  • Isolation
  • Loneliness

Each of these may have lasting effects, including increasing the risk of mental disorders like addiction, depression, and anxiety. In other words, it needs to be examined by experts from multiple standpoints.

As a doctoral student, you’re in an ideal spot to investigate this complex issue. It also emphasizes the need to gain cultural competency and a global mindset as a mental health practitioner, which is another possible research topic in and of itself.

#3. Neuropsychology and Cognitive Processes

The field of neuropsychology and cognitive processes continues to grow, particularly with the advent of digital tools and their ability to monitor cognition.5 Exploring our advancing knowledge of how the brain affects behavior may allow you to look at a wide range of mental health disorders and the newest clinical interventions that are being made available, such as treating:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

#4. Trauma and Resilience Studies

Psychologists and psychiatrists ranging from Bessel Van der Kolk to Peter Levine forever altered our understanding of trauma. What was once thought of as a purely psychological issue is now understood as a bodily ailment.6

But how might this look as we move forward in time and gain an enhanced understanding of neuroplasticity? Will somatics continue to play a role in treating trauma, or will technological advances send practitioners and their clients in a completely different direction?

You may be in a position to dig deeper and find out.

#5. Behavioral Health and Chronic Conditions

The unique relationship between chronic conditions and behavioral health is also up for exploration. Growing research indicates that chronic conditions (such as diabetes) can trigger mental health complications like depression, which can then perpetuate the cycle of the chronic condition.

This topic may be especially timely and relevant as it emphasizes the need to bridge the gap between a patient’s full healthcare team and points out flaws in treating chronic conditions solely from a pharmaceutical stance.

#6. Psychotherapy Process and Outcome Research

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and other forms of traditional “talk therapy” have been mainstays in the field of clinical psychology for decades. But this, too, isn’t static, especially as clients continue to look more toward body-based therapies and technology-fueled solutions, like:8

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
  • Neurofeedback therapy 
  • Brainspotting
  • Somatic Experiencing (SE)

Is it too soon to know if these and other fresh forms of mental health treatments have the same staying power as, say, cognitive behavioral therapy? This might be optimal for exploration.

#7. Social Determinants of Mental Health 

Social determinants of mental health (SDOMH) refer to the external circumstances that may impact an individual’s mental well-being and make them more vulnerable to conditions ranging from depression to addiction. SDOMH includes:9

  • Low income
  • Unemployment 
  • Social isolation
  • Urban crowding
  • Education

How will SDOMH change as we move forward? Will it? Additionally, what is a clinical psychologist’s role in addressing these issues? What are the most effective strategies for working with those who have been disadvantaged?

This is an important topic as we, as a society, continue to address long-buried issues of race and class.

#8. Addiction and Substance Use Disorders

Addiction remains a prevalent topic: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects roughly 10.5% of the population, while 46.8 million Americans wrestled with a substance abuse disorder in 2022 alone.10

Analyzing the most recent treatments and the future of treatments might not only pave the way for your own work after completion of your PsyD or PhD but also do a tremendous service for those who suffer from addiction (and their loved ones and families).

#9. Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Numerous studies indicate that kids and teens now have unusually high rates of:11

  • Depression
  • Substance use
  • Suicide

What plays into this? Is social media entirely to blame, or can social sites also be a resource for youngsters? And how can clinical psychologists tweak their methods to resonate with kids and teens?

These are just three of the many questions you might ask if you decide to adopt this topic for your clinical research.

#10. Ethics and Professional Issues in Clinical Psychology

Last but not least, consider the value of examining both the main and more subtle ethics and professional issues in clinical psychology at work today, such as:

  • Privacy 
  • Informed consent
  • Cultural sensitivity 
  • Termination of counseling

Shape the Future of Mental Health with Alliant International University 

From making a substantial difference in the lives of others to eradicating the stigmas that surround certain mental health conditions, clinical psychologists are in a prime position to fuel lasting change. Selecting a clinical research topic that ignites your spirit and works toward solving larger social issues takes this notion to the next level.

Alliant International University may get you closer to becoming the type of clinical psychologist who can make an impact. Whether you’re exploring our PsyD in Clinical Psychology or have just started college, we’re proud to offer doctoral programs for psychology that can help you excel in your future profession. And with online and in-person classes and training, you might find the flexibility your life requires.

Learn more about our clinical psychology programs today.


Sources: 

  1. “Exploring the Latest Frontiers in Clinical Psychology Research.” The Clinic, March 25, 2024. https://theclinicca.org/exploring-the-latest-frontiers-in-clinical-psyc….
  2.  Park, Susanna Y, Chloe Nicksic Sigmon, and Debra Boeldt. “A Framework for the Implementation of Digital Mental Health Interventions: The Importance of Feasibility and Acceptability Research.” Cureus, September 19, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9580609/. 
  3. Bond, Raymond R., Maurice D. Mulvenna, Courtney Potts, Siobhan O’Neill, Edel Ennis, and John Torous. “Digital Transformation of Mental Health Services.” Nature News, August 22, 2023. https://www.nature.com/articles/s44184-023-00033-y. 
  4. “Cross-Cultural Mental Health.” CMHA British Columbia, July 14, 2016. https://bc.cmha.ca/documents/cross-cultural-mental-health-and-substance-use-2/. 
  5. “New Research Looks at the Promise of ‘Digital Neuropsychology.’” McLean News | New Research Looks at the Promise of “Digital Neuropsychology,” January 7, 2019. https://www.mcleanhospital.org/news/new-research-looks-promise-digital-neuropsychology. 
  6. Kuhfuß, Marie, Tobias Maldei, Andreas Hetmanek, and Nicola Baumann. “Somatic Experiencing - Effectiveness and Key Factors of a Body-Oriented Trauma Therapy: A Scoping Literature Review.” European journal of psychotraumatology, July 12, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8276649/. 
  7. “The Intersection of Mental Health and Chronic Disease.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Accessed April 17, 2024. https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2021/the-intersection-of-mental-health-and-chronic-disease. 
  8. Theodora Blanchfield, AMFT. “What to Know about Brainspotting Therapy.” Verywell Mind, January 16, 2024. https://www.verywellmind.com/brainspotting-therapy-definition-techniques-and-efficacy-5213947. 
  9. Social Determinants of Health and Mental Health. Accessed April 17, 2024. https://www.ncsc.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0025/70864/Social-Determinants-of-Health.pdf. 
  10. “Alcohol and Drug Abuse Statistics (Facts about Addiction).” American Addiction Centers, April 4, 2024. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/addiction-statistics#. 
  11. “Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 8, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html. 

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