What is a clinical psychologist?

A clinical psychologist is someone who will help you with your problems. They might also be called a ‘doctor’ but they are different from a psychiatrist. A clinical psychologist will not give you any tablets or medication but will talk with you about your problems.


What kinds of problems will a clinical psychologist try to help with?

Clinical psychologists can help people with all kinds of problems. They might help you with:

  • your emotions
  • how you behave
  • difficult thoughts
  • family problems
  • understanding yourself
  • learning new ways to cope
  • problem solving
  • how you feel about yourself.


What do clinical psychologists do?

The first time you see a clinical psychologist they will want to have a chat with you to get to know you. They might want you to fill in a questionnaire. This helps them understand how you have been feeling recently and how your problems might affect you.

They might want to ask you some questions about things that have happened in the past. You don’t have to talk to them about anything that you don’t want to.

The clinical psychologist will work together with you to make sense of your problems. They will be interested in what caused your problems and what you need to be able to manage them. Your strengths will be an important part of this. Once there is a shared understanding, you can both agree what to do next.

There are a number of things that a clinical psychologist can do to help you. They might:

  • Talk to people around you to help them understand your problems and how to support you (such as your family or other staff who work with you).
  • Work with you in a group, with other people who have similar problems.
  • Have sessions with you and your family.
  • Work with just you in sessions.
  • Give you or your family some information to look at when you are on your own or at home.
  • Give you or your family some advice about other services that might help you with your problems.

A clinical psychologist will always try to work with you and agree together what might be best for you.

A clinical psychologist might need to tell other people about your problems if they are really worried about safety. For example, if they think that you might harm yourself or someone else, or that you have done something illegal. They will talk to you about what information they might share with other people and why.

You can always ask a clinical psychologist about anything that might be worrying you, or if you are not sure about something.


Myths about clinical psychology

Seeing a psychologist means that you are mentally ill

Everyone has problems from time to time and people talk to clinical psychologists for lots of reasons. You don’t have to be mentally ill to see a psychologist.

Seeing a psychologist means your problems will go away

A clinical psychologist will not always be able to make your problems go away. What they will do is work with you to help you feel better about them and learn new ways of coping.

Seeing a clinical psychologist does not mean your problems will disappear or get better straight away, but it is a step towards getting help. Be prepared to work with your psychologist and expect change to take time.

Clinical psychologists can read your mind

A clinical psychologist does not know what you are thinking. It is important that you are honest. If they don’t know how you are feeling or what you are thinking it can be hard to make sure you are getting the help that is best for you.


Leaflet reference: L573
Version: V3
Date last updated: 09 / 2016
Archive date: 09 / 2019

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