Clinical Psychologist

Clinical Psychologists are involved in a wide range of activities across many healthcare settings. They use psychological methods and research to guide and inform their work.

Working with individual clients, families, and carers, Clinical Psychologists aim to reduce psychological distress and to promote psychological well-being by offering evidence-based interventions which support people to make positive changes to their lives.

Clinical Psychologists also bring their scientific practitioner perspective to the development of services and to the work of multi-disciplinary teams, often through providing training and supervision and promoting reflection on evidence-based practice.

With highly developed research skills, Clinical Psychologists carry out research, service audit and evaluation to inform their clinical interventions and the wider evidence base.

Clinical Psychologists are trained to support clients of all ages, at all stages of life and from all backgrounds either through direct interventions or indirectly by supporting other clinicians to deliver psychological therapies. Clinical Psychologists typically work within services categorised into the following broad populations:

  • Children
  • Young People and Families
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Adults of Working Age
  • Older Adults
  • Forensic
  • Addictions
  • Clinical Health

Clients may be referred for psychological input when they are experiencing psychological distress related to a range of stressors, circumstances, experiences, and conditions. These may result in presentations such as:

  • Mood depression, anxiety, psychosis
  • Adjustment difficulties
  • Interpersonal and relationship difficulties
  • Neurological conditions
  • Challenging or risky decision-making and behaviours
  • Substance misuse and addiction
  • Physical health problems and conditions

Clinical psychologists complete clinical assessments to help develop an understanding of the presenting problem and how it came about.  This ‘formulation’ process informs the choice of evidence-based intervention and psychological model offered to help address the presenting problem.  Clinical psychologists aim to work collaboratively with their clients to monitor progress by use of formal tools and informal measures of mood and, or behaviour change.

Clinical Psychologists work alongside, and in collaboration with, other health and social care professionals to ensure that care management is delivered with the individual’s best interests in mind.  

In NHSScotland, Clinical Psychologists may be based in the following healthcare settings:

  • Community Health Centres
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Other clinics
  • Rehabilitation units
  • Secure settings

Clinical Psychologists are:

  • committed to reducing distress through the application of evidence-based psychological methods
  • good at observation and listening
  • able to work collaboratively and with difference and diversity
  • able to function as a reflective practitioner, including being self-aware
  • able to synthesise different and complex sources of information, and work in line with the evidence base
  • able to work effectively and responsively with other people, teams, colleagues, and clients
  • resourceful
  • excellent communicators
  • confident working with individuals and groups
  • good at problem-solving and decision-making
  • able to conduct research which enables the profession to further develop its knowledge base
  • able to manage emotionally challenging or conflictual situations with sensitivity and following good practice guidelines.

In Scotland, you can study for a doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Edinburgh (DClinPsychol) or the University of Glasgow (DClinPsy). These programmes are approved by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) and usually take 3 years to complete. To gain access to these courses, you are likely to need:

  • the British Psychological Society Graduate Basis for Chartering (GBC) by being awarded at least a 2:1 honours degree from a BPS accredited psychological degree programme, or by being awarded a qualification that confers the Graduate Basis for Chartership with the BPS. 
  • relevant clinical work experience which demonstrates your ability to apply psychological principles in practice

To practise as a Clinical Psychologist in NHSScotland, you must register with the HCPC after completing an approved postgraduate programme.

Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme

Clinical psychologists working in NHSScotland are required to become members of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme in respect of regulated work protected adults and children. This scheme is managed by Disclosure Scotland.

To practise as a Clinical Psychologist in NHSScotland, you must register with the HCPC after completing an approved postgraduate programme and this entitles you to use the title ‘Practitioner Psychologist’.  You will then be eligible to apply to become a chartered member (CPsychol) of the British Psychological Society (BPS).

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

CPD allows Clinical Psychologists to keep their knowledge and skills up to date and is essential to maintaining registration with the HCPC.  The BPS and other organisations offer a variety of courses and CPD opportunities, as well as conferences and seminars where Clinical Psychologists can develop their knowledge and skills further in a range of professional roles.

Career Pathway

During training, Clinical Pychologists develop ‘core competencies’ across different populations which means that on qualification, they can apply for positions within a range of applied settings.  

Clinical Psychologists move into more senior roles with the demonstration of competence based on a broad range of experiences, and may become Consultant Clinical Psychologists within multidisciplinary teams, Lead Clinicians for a sector or assume other senior managerial roles. 

Clinical psychologists who work within NHS Scotland are required to register with the HCPC as the statutory body governing applied clinicians.

Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC)

The HCPC is an independent, UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards for health, psychological, and in England; social work professionals.

It maintains a public register of qualified professionals and works to improve industry standards and education. Visit the HCPC website to find out more.

The British Psychological Society (BPS)

Clinical Psychologists may join the BPS as the main representative bodies for psychology and psychologists practicing in the UK.  It promotes excellence and ethical practice in the science, education and practical applications of pure and applied psychology. Find out more on the BPS website.