The field of Clinical Psychology has been considered to be an important academic field of study and a robust profession since the end of the 19th century. Clinical psychology is defined as the integrated study of clinical knowledge, science and psychological theories, and aims to aid individuals facing psychological distress with the use of assessments and treatment interventions (Prescott et al., 2014). Despite the importance of this field, the exact role of a clinical psychologist remains to be somewhat unclear (MAS, 1989). Thus, this essay will outline the critical role of a clinical psychologist within the national health service in the United Kingdom.
The difficulty found in clarifying the role of a clinical psychologist can be attributed to the fact that they are expected to take on a number of different roles within the NHS. A clinical psychologist can be described as a trained individual who applies psychological theories to understand and alleviate threatening thought patterns and behaviours of certain individuals (McFall, 2006). Therefore, a clinical psychologists’ main aim is to alleviate distress and promote personal growth and subjective well-being, by reducing any inequalities and aims to encourage service-users to engage more in meaningful relationships and activities (Health Careers, 2018). This is usually done using face-to-face therapy with individuals such as adults, children, families or groups at both an organisational or community level. The settings in which this takes place can be in hospitals, social services, as well as IAPT services (Prescott, 2014).
In order to provide the right service to service users, a clinical psychologist is expected to partake in four key steps during therapy; assessment, formulation, treatment and evaluation. As a clinical psychologist, one must first engage in some form of assessment with the client. This is an information gathering process in which the main role of the practitioner is to form
a greater understanding of the client and their situation. This is usually done using direct observations, interviews and psychological standardized tests (MAS, 1989). At this stage, the clinical psychologist is also expected to work on forming a stronger therapeutic alliance with the client in order to ensure that therapy will not be terminated prematurely, and that communication is clear (Davey et al., 2015).
Once the client is assessed, the clinical psychologist then moves onto the most critical aspect of their role, which is formulation. At this stage, the clinical psychologist is expected to link theory and practice by combining the information gathered during the assessment stage with their existing knowledge of psychological theories. This allows for the formulation of a psychological understanding of the client’s problem, which in turn aids with developing helpful treatment interventions (BPS, 2017). These interventions are usually based on the clients’ needs and adopted from the psychological model of the practitioner’s preference (Davey et al., 2015). It should be noted that clinical psychologists are also encouraged to adopt an evaluative and reflective practitioner role. This means that they are expected to measure the effectiveness of their interventions and activities. This can be done using self- reports from clients or using feedback from the relatives of the client (Davey et al., 2015).
In addition to providing a service to their clients, clinical psychologists are also expected to be reflective of their work by taking on the role of a researcher. This means that clinical psychologists are also expected to research and audit using research methods to examine the effectiveness and quality of their services (BPS, 2017).
Clinical psychologists usually also have a role in working with a multi-disciplinary team. This is of essence, as this collaborative work allows for more holistic care from a range of workers in different disciplines of social and health care (Prescott et al., 2014).
In addition to these four key concepts mentioned previously, senior clinical psychologists are expected to partake in a variety of different clinical leadership roles. For example, they can
be involved in developing or reviewing the policies of the workplace. They are also expected to take on the role of a supervisor and regularly provide supervision to junior colleagues. Senior clinical psychologists have to also take on the role of a teacher, in which they foster psychological ways of thinking in junior psychologists through teaching and training (Davey et al., 2015). Finally, it should be noted that the role of a clinical psychologist is underpinned by four ethical values during practice which are to provide their services with respect, integrity, competence and responsibility (BPS, 2017).
To conclude, it can be said that the role of a clinical psychologist is critical, unique and valuable within the NHS.
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