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Clinical psychologists are the healthcare professionals who diagnose mental health problems and work to minimise the stress and discomfort caused by mental illness in a patient. They provide treatments including psychotherapy and counselling. They will work with other mental healthcare professionals, including counsellors, psychiatrists, nurses, health visitors and social workers.
Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists are not qualified to prescribe medication. If they feel that a patient’s condition merits a course of medication they will refer them to a psychiatrist for a second opinion and a prescription.
They first assess a patient through a series of tests and interviews, observing and analysing speech and behaviour in order to either diagnose or devise the best treatment strategy.
A very large percentage – around 25% – of the population suffers from a mental health problem at some point in their life. The types and severity of disorders which people can experience is wide-ranging and can include very short-term issues, such as mild depression, through to more life-changing and perpetuating conditions like chronic psychosis or schizophrenia. The most common disorders from which a person can suffer are depression and anxiety.
Clinical psychologists can work with people of all ages and from all socio-economic backgrounds. They also work with couples and entire families, which is sometimes referred to as systems therapy.
More than half of people in prisons suffer from some from mental illness, so clinical psychologists will spend a lot of time working in prisons, directly with inmates.