What is a Clinical Psychologist?

Cygnet Clinic Psychology

Clinical psychologists are experts in mental health. They have undertaken additional advanced training in the diagnosis and psychological treatment of mental, behavioural and emotional disorders.
Clinical psychology is a science-based profession which integrates theory and clinical practice to understand, prevent, and relieve psychologically based distress or dysfunction.  Find out more in our Frequently Asked Questions section. 

Bachelors Degree

4 Years
Bachelors degree lasts 4 years and covers the scientific underpinnings of Psychology.

This includes all aspects of the broad discipline of Psychology, including research methods, sensation & perception, abnormal psychology, social psychology, personality, and theories of learning (just to name a few).

The top students in the first 3 years are offered a place in an Honours program.

Honours Degree

1 Year (4th of Bachelors)
Honours Degree is a one year intensive research thesis and is graded on class system 1st, 2a, 2b and 3.
The Honours program also includes units (not research only) usually concerning methodology and assessment.

1st Class grade is the usual requirement for entry in Clinical Psychology Masters. Often individuals who wish to be researchers or academics only gain 1st class and enter a PhD program without doing a Masters Degree.

Masters Degree

2 Years
A Master of Psychology (Clinical) is an advanced 2 year degree which is highly competitive to gain entry (only a very small percentage of applicants are accepted). MPsych requires training in Psychological Diagnosis, Treatment as well as 3 Internships at various Hosptials and other facilities. A thesis is also required.

Following Completion of MPsych, 2 More years of Registrarship under the supervision of a senior Clinical Supervision is required to become a Clinical Psychologist 

Doctoral Degree

A PhD is optional and is the highest degree offerred by University. Completion of a PhD requires substantive and original research and typically takes place over 3 to 5 years full time (but can take up to 9 years). On completion the examiners are usually renound in their feild and if the thesis meets high standard the title of Dr is conferred.

There are other Doctoral Degrees such as Doctor of Psychology (DPsych), however these have now been phased out, and the preference is for PhD to be the standard doctoral degree.

What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Clinical Psychologist?

    The term "Psychologist" may describe professionals with at least 4 years at university followed by 2 years of supervised work (and more recently 5 years of university study at Masters level and 1 year of internship). The area of work is varied and these Psychologists are often referred to as "Registered Psychologists" or "Generalist Psychologists". Currently, those with endorsed "Clinical Psychologist" status have a higher Medicare Rebate than Registered Psychologists and all hold a Master of Psychology degree (as do Counselling Psychologists and Neuropsychologists to mention just a few). 

    The Masters training in Clinical Psychology is based around the treatments for diagnosable mental health conditions. Clinical Psychologists along with Psychiatrists are trained to make formal diagnoses of psychological disorders.  Although Clinical Psychology programs are extremely competitive, a Clinical Psychologist is one of 9 seperate areas of advanced training and endorsement (These are: Clinical Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology, Community Psychology, Counselling Psychology, Education & Developmental Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Health Psychology, Organisational Psychology and Sport & Exercise Psychology)

    It is important to note that there are excellent therapists from all sorts of backgrounds and at various registration levels.  This includes other health professions and non AHPRA registered counsellors and psychotherapists, whom often have considerable experience.  Having a PhD or Masters degree does not indicate superiority as a therapist, but can contribute to an increased understanding of diagnosable mental health conditions such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression or Generalised Anxiety Disorder.


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