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Purpose and Mission
Psychologists are allied health professionals who specialise in evaluating, diagnosing and treating patients with mental health issues. These healthcare professionals also study how people think and feel, conduct research and provide counselling for behavioural and psychological issues.
Some psychologists are trained in clinical psychology, which involves specialised training in mental health and psychological problems. Clinical psychologists can further specialise in forensics, neuropsychology and education. The three main methods of clinical psychology are cognitive behaviour, the humanistic perspective and the psychodynamic approach.
The primary tool of a psychologists is tests such as personality tests, aptitude, vocational and intelligence tests to assess the mental and emotional state of their patients. Psychologists can help people during emotionally trying times, and treat patients who are drug addicts, alcoholics, anorexic, bulimic, anxious, depressed and stressed.
Many psychologists work at hospitals and clinics, so they typically report to a department head or chief of service. Others work in rehab centers, nursing homes, prisons or in private practice. Those employed by a healthcare provider typically report to a department head or similar mid-level administrator.
Psychologists may have supervisory responsibilities in their practice, or be responsible for training new colleagues, but otherwise tend to be focused more on patient care.
Clinical psychologists must complete a four year full time undergraduate degree in psychology, such as a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) or Bachelor of Psychological Science, and a subsequent Master of Psychology or Doctor of Psychology postgraduate degree.
All psychologists must register with the Psychology Board of Australia before they can practice in Australia. They can apply for registration via the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). This applies to those that are trained in Australia and abroad. Most psychologists choose to become members of the Australian Psychological Society (APS).
Responsibilities of a Psychologist
Specialisations in psychology include clinical neuropsychology, clinical psychology, community psychology, counselling psychology, educational and developmental psychology, forensic psychology, health psychology, organisational psychology and sport psychology.
Psychologists work in private practices, clinics, public and private hospitals, schools, colleges, universities, government departments, the justice system and even at marketing firms.
They need excellent oral and written communication skills and critical thinking skills to work closely with patients, evaluate progress and provide treatment plans. They should be naturally observant and perceptive in order to pick up cues from their patients regarding their emotional state.
It is important to gain patients’ trust and to keep their information confidential. Strong problem solving skills and a genuine interest in people and human behavior are also prerequisites.
Psychologists need to work cooperatively as they are often part of a healthcare team, and must also leadership skills to inspire trust and confidence in their patients.