Clinical Psychology at WellStar
Psychology is the science that seeks to understand, explain, and when necessary, change human behavior. Behavior is influenced by thoughts, needs, values, motivations, emotions, and even physiology. Clinical psychology is the synthesis of the science of psychology with clinical practice and experience. Clinical psychologists understand and treat psychological problems, and promote personal adjustment and development.
While there are many clinicians who provide services akin to those offered by clinical psychologists (licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, etc.), psychologists are unique in their depth of training, breadth of practice, and immersion in the scientific principles that influence human behavior. Clinical psychologists have obtained a doctorate degree in psychology from a program and institution accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). In addition to completing rigorous academic requirements, clinical psychologists complete a one-year residency (or internship),a minimum of one year of post-doctoral clinical training, and have passed a national board examination. In some states, such as Georgia, psychologists must also pass state jurisprudence and oral examinations.
In the United States, psychology is distinguished from psychiatry in that (except in Louisiana and New Mexico) psychologists do not prescribe medications, but instead employ psychotherapy, biofeedback, and other behaviorally - and insight-oriented treatments to elicit change in their patients. Furthermore, whereas pharmacological management is, for the most part, unique to psychiatry, psychologists are trained to offer psychological testing to understand and treat problems. Psychologists and psychiatrists have similar levels of education, but underdifferent schools of training: while psychiatrists are medical doctors (M.D.), clinical psychologists obtain training via doctorate of philosophy (Ph.D.) or doctorate of psychology (Psy.D.) programs. In many cases, psychologists collaborate with psychiatrists and other medical doctors and health professionals to provide the best possible integrated care.
Clinical psychologists evaluate, diagnose, treat, and prevent psychological disorders and other individual and group problems. The overarching goal is to improve individuals' adjustment, adaptation, sense of personal effectiveness, and quality of life. Clinical psychologists are distinguished by the diversity of problems they address and the populations they are equipped to serve. They can help prevent and resolve individual differences, abnormal behaviors, and mental disorders, and provide lifestyle enhancement to individual patients of all ages, as well as to groups, like families, athletic teams, individuals experiencing problems in the workplace, or to a larger community.
Services provided by clinical psychologists include:
- Psychological Evaluations: Psychological evaluations are conducted for many different reasons, including to diagnose or differentiate between diagnoses; to inform the direction of treatment; or to ascertain a person's suitability for employment, a surgical procedure, or legal or parental competence.Evaluations involve objective testing of intellect and the identification of characteristics of personality, perception, judgment, reasoning, emotion, and/or behavior. Evaluations require mastery of theoretical and applied principles of psychological measurement, the administration and scoring of various tests, and interpretation of results across diverse populations. Whether an individual patient presents specifically for a comprehensive evaluation or not, psychologists routinely perform no less than a brief assessment at the onset of psychological treatment, and throughout all phases of the treatment process.
- Individual & Group Interventions: Clinical psychologists treat patients who are experiencing medical problems, but are also experiencing co-occurring emotional or behavioral difficulties. When an individual is attempting to manage a problem that has a medical cause (e.g. chronic pain), psychological interventions may be employed, involving behavioral modification to help patients manage the problem more effectively. Management of psychiatric problems, in contrast, typically entails traditional psychotherapy in individual or group settings.
- Consultation: Consultation-liaison psychology, is collaboration between a psychologist and other medical professionals to offer insights regarding the effects of medical disorders on behavior, and behavioral influences on symptoms and compliance.
- Clinical Supervision: Clinical supervision entails the formal provision of work-focused education and training. It entails management, support, development, and evaluation of another professional or colleague (Bernard & Goodyear, 2004). Clinical supervision serves a gate-keeping and quality control function that ensures high standards of care. Whereas clinical supervision typically involves the oversight of a lesser-trained professional by a more experienced professional, clinical psychologists possessing similar levels of experience often engage in formal and informal peer consultation to ensure the highest standards of practice.
- Research: Research improves the quality of psychological services provided generally by the profession, and specifically by the individual psychologist. The development and implementation of evidence-based and empirically-supported treatments are good examples of how science informs clinical practice.