WHAT IS A CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST?
“Clinical psychologists are trained to work with individuals of different ages with behavioural, emotional and/or psychological distress which disrupts their everyday functioning and well-being. They aim to reduce distress and to enhance and promote psychological well-being, minimise exclusion and inequalities and enable service users to engage in meaningful relationships and valued work and leisure activities” NHS England
To qualify as a registered Clinical Psychologist takes between 6-9 years. Registered Clinical Psychologists must have completed an undergraduate degree in psychology (3 years) plus a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (3 years). It is usual to have also completed approximately 2-3 years of postgraduate clinical experience before entering the doctorate course. Just like medical doctors and nurses, Clinical Psychologists are trained by the NHS and the doctorate involves both academic and clinical work. After qualifying, most clinical psychologists will develop areas of clinical specialism (e.g. adult mental health, eating disorders) and are required to undertake regular training and CPD (continuing professional development) each year to keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST, COUNSELLORS, THERAPISTS AND PSYCHIATRISTS
Clinical Psychologists have extensive training in understanding and assessing a range of psychological difficulties. They are skilled in determining the most appropriate form of help and are trained in providing more than one type of therapy.
Assessment by a clinical psychologist involves finding out about many aspects of a person's life including background, emotional issues, family, social situation and physical health. Using this information, Clinical Psychologists work with a person to create an understanding about what may have contributed to the development of their difficulties and how best to help. To do this, they use their knowledge of psychological theory and scientific evidence. This helps them to suggest what type of therapy/treatment might be most helpful.
Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors who have specialised in mental health. They are concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental health conditions. They can prescribe medication as well as recommending other forms of treatment. In the NHS, psychiatrists often work alongside other mental health practitioners such as psychologists and mental health nurses.
Therapists and counsellors often train in providing one or more particular type of therapy/intervention such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, or counselling. If you already understand the difficulties you have and know what form of therapy would be most likely to help your problem, you might go directly to see a therapist or a counsellor.
Clinical Psychology is a highly regulated profession.
Anyone with a degree in psychology may call themselves a psychologist however ‘Clinical Psychologist’ is a legally protected title which means only professionals meeting the criteria set out by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) may use it. All Clinical Psychologists must be registered with the HCPC. You can check the HCPC website to ensure your clinical psychologist is registered at
Many Clinical Psychologists are also a ‘Chartered Psychologist’ (CPsychol) which means they are registered with the British Psychological Society (BPS).
“The title of Chartered Psychologist is legally recognized and reflects only the highest standard of psychological knowledge and expertise” (BPS)
You can check the register of chartered psychologists at
Therapists and counsellors are not yet legally regulated professions, but many voluntarily register with one of the major professional bodies such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). These bodies ensure that anyone on their registers have the appropriate qualifications and experience. You should always check the qualifications of anyone who works with you or your family.