Clinical psychology career path and progression opportunities
If you’re thinking about starting on the clinical psychology career path or are a newly qualified clinical psychologist, there are plenty of career options available to you, along with many progression opportunities. Within your clinical psychology career, you can specialise in a particular area, focus on specific psychological therapies and work towards a supervisory or leadership role.
Within this blog, we’ve outlined several clinical psychologist career paths that you can choose from, with information on what to do to achieve your career goals. The paths we’ve looked at are:
- Clinical neuropsychology
- Adult mental health
- Learning disabilities
- Eating disorders
- Palliative care
- Physical health
- Senior psychology roles
- Temporary or locum roles
A breakdown of different clinical psychology career path options
Specialise in a particular area of clinical psychology
While on your clinical psychology career path, you can specialise in working with certain patient groups or in certain areas of clinical psychology. Here are some of the career options for you to consider.
Clinical neuropsychology is a clinical psychology career that focuses on supporting people with brain injuries or neurological conditions. During your work as a clinical neuropsychologist, you’ll support people with conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, vascular disorders, seizure disorders or learning disabilities.
Your duties will also include:
- Providing assessments, treatment, advice and education for patients
- Working on service development and quality improvement projects
- Planning, co-ordinating, delivering and evaluating the neuropsychology service
Entry into a career in clinical neuropsychology requires certain qualifications. To register with the British Psychological Society (BPS) as a Practitioner Full Member of the Division of Neuropsychology, you’ll need to achieve the following:
- A Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC), which will allow you to pursue an accredited postgraduate course. Membership is granted upon completion of a society-accredited degree or accredited conversion course
- An accredited postgraduate training programme, such as the PGDip in Clinical Neuropsychology
- The BPS Qualification in Clinical Neuropsychology (QiCN)
Adult mental health
A clinical psychologist in adult mental health works on diagnosing, understanding, and treating mental health conditions in adults. If you choose this clinical psychology career path, you’ll support people with conditions such as anxiety, depression, or psychosis. This work can be based in hospitals, clinics, schools, prisons, social services, or community teams.
Some of the responsibilities include:
- Carrying out assessments
- Creating care plans
- Delivering therapeutic interventions
- Providing support to other professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals
- Training practitioners and supervising staff
- Researching new developments in your field
- Leading teams of clinicians
Clinical psychologists working with people who have learning disabilities are responsible for both diagnosed adults and their families, as well as carers and staff teams. On this clinical psychology career path, you’ll usually play an integral part in a multidisciplinary team, helping to improve the quality of life of your patients.
Duties can include:
- Devising and implementing solutions for improved emotional wellbeing
- Creating care plans that incorporate approaches for both mental and physical health
- Delivering interventions, such as positive behaviour support
- Consulting and liaising with other healthcare professionals
- Completing diagnostic assessments
- Supervising junior staff members
- Providing teaching and training
- Helping with service development and research
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Another career path for a clinical psychologist is in CAMHS, supporting children and young people with emotional, behavioural, developmental, and mental health challenges. Within this role, you’ll work as part of a multidisciplinary team and you can also specialise in certain clinical areas or conditions.
The role’s responsibilities usually include:
- Performing clinical assessments to understand a child’s background and current situation, as well as that of their family
- Carrying out observations, employing tools such as questionnaires and psychometric tests
- Working alongside other clinicians to offer patient-centred care
- Supervising and consulting with other professionals to promote the understanding of conditions and the delivery of psychological therapies
- Training colleagues and other agencies on therapeutic approaches
You can also choose to work in eating disorder services, taking a leading role in the clinical assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of patients. On this career path, you’ll advise other professionals and influence the delivery of services. You can work in private or NHS settings, community care teams, hospitals and inpatient and outpatient clinics.
The duties of clinical psychologists who work in eating disorder services include:
- Assessing patients to understand the nature of their condition
- Determining the underlying causes of their challenges
- Creating treatment plans that help to address mental and emotional symptoms
- Delivering treatment as well as monitoring physical symptoms and psychiatric comorbidities
- Developing psychological services for eating disorders
- Working alongside other healthcare professionals for a holistic approach, such as dieticians, physicians, general practitioners, and paediatricians
Another clinical psychologist career option is working in palliative care, where you’ll help to improve the quality of life for patients living with serious illnesses, supporting them with the emotional impact of their experience.
Here are some of the responsibilities of a clinical psychologist in palliative care:
- Carrying out assessments with patients who have life-limiting conditions
- Creating treatment plans to reduce mental health symptoms
- Conducting regular appointments with patients, helping them to meaningfully engage with their lives and involving them in decisions about their care
- Amending treatment recommendations as needed, depending on each patient’s changing condition and unique care goals
- Providing support to family members, carers, and partners
Clinical psychologists can also specialise in physical health. While on this clinical psychology career path, you’ll help people manage and improve different physical health concerns. You might work in areas such as clinical health psychology, paediatrics, sexual health or oncology and palliative care.
Some of the responsibilities of a physical health psychologist include:
- Helping patients cope with the symptoms of physical health problems, such as pain
- Educating people about new skills and techniques to improve physical health and lifestyles
- Supporting families and carers with the impact of illness
- Teaching strategies to manage mental health challenges
- Advising healthcare professionals such as doctors on improvements such as communication techniques
- Developing new initiatives for high-quality healthcare, such as remote interventions
As a clinical psychologist, another career option available to you is specialising in supporting people who are experiencing addiction issues, helping them to address the psychological factors that contribute to unhealthy behaviours or dependencies. These roles can generally be found in hospitals and rehabilitation centres.
Here are some of the responsibilities of a clinical psychologist in addiction:
- Conducting assessments to understand the past traumas, medical history and current mental health of patients
- Working alongside patients in rehabilitation to tailor support as they progress
- Creating and monitoring treatment plans
- Helping patients avoid relapse
- Educating patients on coping strategies for mental health symptoms throughout addiction treatment
- Creating strategies to help people heal from past traumas
- Helping patients to improve relationships with the people in their lives
Develop your knowledge and experience with particular therapies
Clinical psychology careers give you the opportunity to work with an array of different modalities, depending on the patient groups and conditions you’re helping to treat.
Examples of therapies you may use include:
- Dialectical behaviour therapy
- Family and systemic psychotherapy
- Integrative/holistic therapy
- Interpersonal therapy
- Group therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Humanistic therapy
- Psychodynamic therapy
- The NHS Talking Therapies programme (formerly known as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies/IAPT)
Take on senior psychology roles
A clinical psychologist’s career path can also lead to a clinical supervision or management position, where you are responsible for teams or departments.
Alternatively, with a good amount of experience, you can be promoted to a consultant psychologist position. You may then choose to pursue a head of specialty role. After this, you can then look to become the overall head of a psychological service or even set up your own practice.
Funding for further professions
If you want to train in a new profession within the field of psychology during your career, you may also be able to apply for NHS funding.
This training is available to anyone who has already completed an NHS-funded psychological professions training programme. You become eligible for it two years after the expected completion date of your original training.
Explore temporary work in clinical psychology
Working in temporary or locum roles is another clinical psychology career option that is available. It is great for those who aren’t sure about which client group they want to focus on or for those who want more variety.
This type of work is taken up on a short-term basis, to fill in staffing gaps or fulfil the duties of psychologists who are on leave. Offering more flexibility, higher rates of pay and plenty of variety, you can choose the contracts and hours that suit you. Clinical psychologist careers can also grow quickly through locum roles, as you have the opportunity to expand your network and work within many different settings.
Clinical psychology opportunities with Pulse
At Pulse, our experienced consultants will provide you with a high level of support from the day you register.
We’ll match you with roles that fit your experience, skills, and ambitions as you focus on doing the work you love. We’ll also be able to put you forward for exclusive opportunities that you won’t find anywhere else, as we are preferred and sole suppliers to some of the biggest NHS and private healthcare organisations in the UK.
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