What is a Counseling Psychologist?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a counseling psychologist is a mental health professional who helps their clients identify, understand and address social, work, emotional and personal problems. Counseling psychologists generally have a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology and state licensure to professionally counsel people. Counseling psychologists work settings and responsibilities may vastly vary based on their specialization and target population.

Inpatient Psychologist

An inpatient psychologist may work in a hospital emergency room or a government organization like the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Inpatient psychologists will provide a full range of diagnostic and psycho-therapeutic services. They provide training, such as student practicums, internships and fellowships, as well as participate in multidisciplinary teams who plan and coordinate services and treatment. They will conduct assessments, diagnoses, psychotherapy and consultations.

These psychologists must hold current licenses to practice psychology and have a doctorate degree. They must have knowledge of advanced professional psychological theories, systems and techniques for the full range of patients. They must have the ability to provide professional advice and confidential consultations for interventions and behavioral health planning. They will mentors staff in their professional careers, attend offsite meetings and participate in scholarly and professional activities.

Counseling Psychology Professor

Counseling psychologists may work in universities teaching graduate and doctoral students. They will facilitate meaningful learning of course competencies and core curriculum content. They will proactively support all stages and levels of the learning environment. They provide student-centered education through enabling graduates to understand, explore and master advanced counseling psychology concepts, tools and theories. They must establish a culture of learning and diversity that value mutual respect and academic responsibility.

These clinical counseling psychologists encourage students to become patient advocates, ethical professionals and life-long learners. Some of their students will be licensed practicing counseling psychologists seeking professional development to fulfill their licenses’ continuing education requirements. These professors will conduct assessments of student performance and program learning outcomes. They may advise students how to deal with ethical dilemmas and how to continually incorporate best practices into their work.

Counseling Service Director

Some counseling psychologists work in private and nonprofit organizations that provide mental health support and counseling services. Many drug treatment and rehabilitation facilities employ counseling psychologists to run in-house programs. These counseling psychologists have administrative and supervisory duties that revolve around service direction and coordination. They may supervise drug counselors, licensed therapists and life management coaches. These counseling psychologists may provide client education through group lectures and one-on-one interviews.

They oversee intake testing, progress assessments and internal system audits. They perform human resource, performance management and organizational structuring duties. These private and nonprofit facilities may provide alternative services, such as hypnotherapy, meditation, biofeedback, conflict resolution and art therapy. They may work with licensed professionals to provide clinical, neuropsychology and cognitive behavioral therapy services. These counseling psychologists may have a master’s degree in clinical counseling, general psychology or social work.

Related Resource: What is Educational Counseling?

Some counseling psychologists are employed by schools, colleges and universities to provide various psychological services. This includes psychometric testing, individual counseling and teacher consultations. These counseling psychologists must continually meet the social, emotional and academic needs of their students. They must be able to administer psychological assessments, interpret results and create recommendation reports.