Clinical Psychology

Ph.D. and MS Degree

Graduate School Planning and Information


What is clinical psychology?

Clinical psychology is a broad field of practice and research within the discipline of psychology, which applies psychological principles to the assessment, prevention, amelioration, and rehabilitation of psychological distress, disability, dysfunctional behaviour, and health-risk behaviour, and to the enhancement of psychological and physical well-being.

Clinical psychology includes both scientific research, focusing on the search for general principles, and clinical service, focusing on the study and care of clients, and information gathered from each of these activities influences practice and research.

Clinical psychology is a broad approach to human problems (both individual and interpersonal) consisting of assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, program development, administration, and research with regard to numerous populations, including children, adolescents, adults, the elderly, families, groups, and disadvantaged persons. There is overlap between some areas of clinical psychology and other professional fields of psychology such as counselling psychology and clinical neuropsychology, as well as some professional fields outside of psychology, such as psychiatry and social work.

Clinical psychology is devoted to the principles of human welfare and professional conduct as outlined in the Canadian Psychological Association's Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists. According to this code the activities of clinical psychologists are directed toward: respect for the dignity of persons; responsible caring; integrity in relationships; and responsibility to society.

What populations do clinical psychologist see?

Clinical psychologists work with a broad range of populations, including the following: individuals (infants, children, adolescents, adults, the elderly); couples (regardless of gender composition); families (traditional, multi- generational, and blended families); groups; organizations; and systems.

Where do clinical psychologist work?

Clinical psychologists are found in a number of service settings, including the following: General Hospitals and Medical Clinics; Mental Health Clinics and Psychiatric Hospitals; Rehabilitation Hospitals and Clinics; Community Service Agencies; Private Practice; Universities and Colleges; Industry; the Military; Prisons and Correctional Facilities; Private and Government Research Agencies; and Schools.

What services do clinical psychologist provide?

The typical services provided by clinical psychologists include: assessment and measurement; diagnosis; treatment; consultation: teaching and supervision; policy planning; research; program evaluation; and, administration.

What are psychologist trained to do?

The training of clinical psychologists requires course work, practical experience, and research, of biological, social, cognitive, and affective bases of behaviour, as well as individual differences, statistics, and research methodology. These areas of psychological knowledge are not unique to clinical psychology, but are generic, and overlap with other areas of professional psychology (such as clinical neuropsychology or counselling psychology), as well as other disciplines, such as sociology and biology.

The knowledge base of clinical psychology is obtained through undergraduate and graduate training, consisting of course work, supervised experience, and research. Knowledge of personality, human development, psychopathology, assessment/diagnosis, and intervention define the field of clinical psychology. Knowledge of ethical principles, their application and enforcement, as well as the ability to develop and manage a helping relationship with clients (individuals, couples, groups, organizations, and systems) is an integral part of the knowledge base of clinical psychology.

The knowledge base within clinical psychology is so broad that no individual clinical psychologist can become competent in all areas of clinical psychology. Therefore, clinical psychologists must function within the specific limits of their competence (i.e., knowledge and expertise), and are expected to clearly acknowledge the limitations of their scope of practice. Clinical psychologists are responsible for referring to others (either within or outside the area of clinical psychology) when they are faced with a task outside of the limits of their knowledge and skill.


The fundamental skill areas that are essential for competent functioning as a clinical psychologist within the areas of health and mental health include the following:


There are a number of methods employed in assessment, including interviewing, systematic observation, and psychometric testing of the client and significant others, as well as groups, the environment, and organizations/systems. Multiple assessment methods are often utilized, and clinical psychologists must be sufficiently trained to be able to choose the most appropriate method or instrument from among the many available.

Assessment of an individual's development, behaviour, intellect, interests, personality, cognitive processes, emotional functioning, and social functioning are performed by clinical psychologists, as are assessment activities directed toward couples, families, and groups. Interpretation of assessment results, and integration of these results with other information available, in a way that is sensitive to the client, and particularly clients of special populations, is an essential skill of clinical psychologists.


Clinical psychologists are trained to assess, make functional diagnoses regarding intellectual level, cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioural functioning, as well as mental and psychological disorders. Diagnoses may be made formally, using widely accepted criteria, such as the criteria for evaluating intellectual level or psychiatric diagnosis (i.e., the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), or informally, such as diagnosis of family dynamics using a particular theoretical model. In many jurisdictions in Canada, diagnosis is included in the psychologists scope of practice.


A major activity of clinical psychologists is intervention or treatment. All psychological intervention rests on the ability to develop and maintain functional therapeutic relationships with clients. This is an important skill, as clients seen by clinical psychologists are often highly distressed and sensitive. The major purpose of intervention is to empower individuals to make adaptive choices and to gain healthy control of their own lives.

Most clinical psychologists have been trained to use a variety of treatment procedures, although the wide range of interventions available is far too great for any single practitioner to master. Clinical psychologists are responsible for selecting clients for whom their intervention skills are appropriate, and referring others to colleagues who have the requisite skills. All interventions require skill in the following tasks: conceptualization of the problem (i.e., assessment, diagnosis, and interpretation); formulation of a treatment plan; implementation of the treatment plan; and evaluation of the accuracy and completeness of the conceptualization, formulation, and implementation, as well as outcome of the intervention.


Clinical psychology research can be both basic and applied. Among the health care professions, clinical psychology is one of the few to provide extensive research training. Thus, clinical psychologists are well suited to design, implement, and evaluate research and conduct program evaluation/quality assurance programs as part of their activities. Research is an integral activity of clinical psychologists working in academic and clinical settings.

Consultation/Program Development

Clinical psychologists typically work with other professionals, either directly or indirectly, who are also providing professional services to the client. As such, clinical psychologists must be skilled in interacting with other professionals in a respectful and helpful manner. Clinical psychologists are often asked to contribute to the development of treatment/evaluation programs, and should obtain appropriate supervised experience in such activities during their training.



Clinical psychology graduate programs in California

*Alliant International University (San Diego)

Clinical Areas of Study

*California State University, Northridge


*San Jose State University

Ph.D & MS Clinical psychology

*California State University, Dominguez Hills

Ms in Clinical Psychology

*San Diego State University

Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology

*University of California, Berkeley

Clinical Science Ph.D

*California State University, Fullerton

Psychology (Clinical) Catalog

*San Francisco State University

MS Clnical Psychology

*University of California, Los Angeles


*California State University, Long Beach

Preparation for Graduate School 

*California State University, San Bernardino

MS Counseling

*University of California, San Diego

Psychology Department

*University of Southern California

Clincal Science

University of La Verne

PsyD Program

Loma Linda University

Ph.D Clinical Emphasize