What Are the Roles & Responsibilities of a Clinical Psychologist?

Updated April 17, 2017

Clinical psychologists are health-care providers whose primary responsibilities involve the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To practice in their state, a clinical psychologist must usually complete a doctorate-level psychology degree and pass a licensing exam. Many clinical psychologists choose to further specialise in areas, such as health psychology, neuropsychology, geropsychology or child psychology. Clinical psychologists' roles and responsibilities vary depending on their speciality and setting.


Clinical psychologists perform assessments on patients of all ages for a variety of reasons. These include IQ, aptitude and achievement tests, as well as interviews and behaviour assessments. Assessments help psychologists evaluate the cause, severity and possible effects of a person's mental issue.

Intervention and Treatment

Clinical psychologists treat a variety of mental issues, including personal issues, such as the death of a loved one or divorce, depression, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Psychotherapy and behaviour modification are common treatment options provided by clinical psychologists. These programs give patients a chance to discuss their issues in a private or group setting, while the psychologist offers different ways of interpreting, understanding and resolving each situation. Treatment approaches vary depending on a psychologist's speciality and training.

Medical Team Member

Clinical psychologists, especially those who work in a hospital setting, may be required to work with other members of a patient's medical team.This includes consulting with doctors and nurses to determine the best course of treatment for patients. Clinical psychologists are not permitted to prescribe medication, requiring them to transfer patients who need medication to psychiatrists or other medical doctors.

Teaching and Research

Universities and medical schools may hire clinical psychologists to teach and train students to deliver mental and behavioural health services. Schools and universities may also hire clinical psychologists to develop and implement intervention programs. Researchers study the theory and practice of clinical psychology, publishing findings that make up the empirical base of clinical psychology practice, according to the Society of Clinical Psychology.

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About the Author

Kelly Smith has been writing professionally since 2010. She writes for various websites, specializing in health and literature. Smith is a certified pharmacy technician with more than five years of professional experience. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in multimedia communications from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia.