Even though nearly 40% of psychologists work in some form of private practice (Australia’s Health Workforce Series – Psychologists in Focus, 2014), that doesn’t mean that all of these psychologists are always in offices with muted tones seeing patients stretched out on couches (ok the muted tones might be close to the truth but the couches are generally for the movies!). There are many different ways to practice psychology and many psychologists choose to combine private practice with some other form of practice, often in another setting and/or location. What you do and where you practice is often dependent on the areas in which you specialise. In this blog post we’ll look at psychology specialty areas and the implications for how and where you may work.
As you advance in your studies, you may find that certain areas hold your interest and maybe you’d like to explore them more and consider them as a specialty – or what the Psychology Board of Australia calls a “Professional Endorsement”. In order to get professionally endorsed in one of the specialist areas and to be able to use the associated title, you will generally require a certain number of hours of expert supervision and practice in that area (often as part of your postgraduate studies, but occasionally in addition to the studies you’ve already completed, but that’s a whole other blog post. Let’s have a look at each of the available endorsements:
- Counselling psychology
- Clinical psychology
Both Counselling and Clinical Psychology specialise in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of mental health disorders and life issues. Both of these specialties may also be involved in program development and evaluation as well as mediation.
Both Counselling and Clinical Psychologists may do a large majority of their work in private practice. The Australian Psychological Society (APS) also notes that Clinical Psychologists may be involved in teaching, research and evaluation. You may find Clinical Psychologists in academic, medical, or community mental health settings, in addition to private practice.
The other major difference between any endorsement and the “Clinical Psychologist” endorsement is the rebate available from Medicare. Medicare currently have a two-tiered system which attracts a higher rebate for Clinical Psychologists than registered psychologists (who may have an endorsement in another area) to acknowledge the more intensive mental health assessment and treatment training that Clinical Psychologists complete.
- Clinical Neuropsychology: An endorsement in this area reflects specialist skills in the study of the brain and its impact on behaviour. This includes assessment and treatment of memory, learning, attention, language, reading, problem-solving, decision-making or other aspects of behaviour and thinking abilities, with an emphasis on developmental and medical problems and diseases. Clinical Neuropsychologists may work in private practice, medical settings or research settings.
- Community psychology: Community Psychologists use their skills to assess and plan interventions for at risk or under-resourced communities. They may also be involved in environmental issues and social justice as well as research. You may find Community Psychologists in academic, not-for-profit, government, and workplace rehabilitation and employment settings.
- Educational and developmental psychology: Endorsements in this area reflect skills in assessing and treating childhood and adolescent disorders and disabilities and problems associated with progressing through the lifespan. Educational and Developmental Psychologists are most likely found in school settings, as well as services specific for children and adolescents, private practice and academia.
- Forensic psychology: Forensic psychologists specialise in psychological practice as it relates to criminal, civil and family litigation contexts and provide services for litigants, perpetrators, victims, and personnel of government and community organisations. You can find Forensic Psychologists in work settings including: courts, corrections, mental health, police, drug and alcohol services, academia and private practice.
- Health psychology: Health Psychologists work in a variety of contexts to promote positive health behaviours and reduce harmful health behaviours either through the development, application, and evaluation of programs, individual counselling or liaison with other psychologists and stakeholders. You’ll generally find them in medical, community and academic settings.
- Organisational psychology: An endorsement in Organisational Psychology reflects specialist skills in areas of organisational functioning including recruitment and retention of staff and their performance and well-being in the workplace. Organisational Psychologists work in organisations of all sizes, in consulting roles based in private practice and in academia.
- Sport and exercise psychology: Sports Psychologists specialise in the provision of services to athletes and their communities for individual or team performance management, injury rehabilitation and the like. You’ll find them in professional sports organisations and settings and in consulting roles based in private practice, as well as academia.
For a detailed look at each of these areas see: http://www.psychology.org.au/studentHQ/careers-in-psychology/ and for a breakdown of the statistics of psychologist registrants with at least one endorsement see http://www.psychologyboard.gov.au/About/Statistics.aspx
Where do Endorsed Psychologists Work?
As we’ve seen, there are many different settings in which psychologists may work, in addition to or instead of private practice. Other than those mentioned, you may like to consider environmental, human factors, market research, military, and social settings. If you’re a fan of variety, it’s worth considering that the APS promotes no less than 45 different interest groups for psychologists!
Although clinical work with clients in a private practice setting can be very rewarding, it is certainly not the only option for a career as a psychologist. Depending on the areas or settings that take your fancy, you can be sure of finding a combination of skills, clients, and work settings that suit you best.
Dr Rebecca Ray
Clinical Psychologist, Writer, Weimaraner admirer