Psychology is the scientific study of human thought and behaviour. It focuses on all aspects of human functioning, such as how we process information, the workings of memory, the psychology of social interactions and the biology of the brain. Psychology is currently one of the most popular degrees at University and gives people a grounding in the key principles of psychology and the application of the scientific method to its study.
What is Clinical Psychology?
Clinical psychology is the application of psychology to the understanding and treatment of psychological problems and difficulties. Consequently, clinical psychology is rooted in scientific research about probable causes of psychological distress and what will be likely to help. This distress can be emotional or mental health problems, such as depression or psychosis.
Others have difficulties with their thinking (also known as ‘cognitive’ problems). These can take many forms, such as problems with memory or perception after a head injury, a learning disability or dementia. Clinical psychology can help with the assessment of these difficulties and advise on strategies that may be able to help with these problems.
There are many more areas of life where a clinical psychologist can offer assistance, such as assisting people who have difficulties in maintaining relationships or providing advice about how to care for a child who has been abused.
What is the difference between a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist?
Although clinical psychologists and psychiatrists often work together in clinical teams, there are clear differences between them. The main difference concerns training and what they are able to offer to help with a psychological difficulty. Clinical psychologist’s background is in the academic study of psychology, whilst a psychiatrist’s basic training is in medicine.
So if you are suffering from depression, a psychiatrist would be best placed to help you think about whether a biological treatment like antidepressant drugs may help. Whilst, a clinical psychologist would be able to help you think about whether a psychological therapy like cognitive behavioural therapy may help.
Below are examples of the types of treatments that clinical psychologists can offer (this list is not exhaustive):
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – CBT is a talking therapy that focuses on your thoughts, beliefs and behaviours, and looks at how they interact to maintain your current difficulties. It encourages you to examine how your actions can affect how you think and feel. The focus within CBT is on your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.
Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT) – Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) is a structured time-limited therapy that is often offered in blocks of eight sessions (i.e. 8, 16 or 24). It is a collaborative therapy and it works by looking at the ways you think, feel and act. The therapy is tailored to your individual needs and to your own manageable goals for change.
CAT is very much focused on enabling change in one’s life by looking at how to change how you view yourself, how your problems started and how they affect your everyday life, such as in your relationships, your working life and your choices of how to get the best out of your life.
Systemic Therapy – is a form of psychotherapy which seeks to address people not on individual level, as had been the focus of earlier forms of therapy, but as people in relationships, dealing with the interactions of groups and their interactional patterns and dynamics. Often, people are seen together with the people that are closest to them, such as families.