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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Martin

What is a Psychologist?!

What is the difference between a life coach, art therapist, pastoral counselor, mental health counselor, social worker, and psychiatrist? And what the #@*! is a psychologist?!!

There are so many different types of help professionals, it can be hard for the lay consumer to identify the differences enough to be able to chose the field and practitioner that is the best fit for them. I have deep respect for and often work in collaboration with other help professionals, however, in this post, I hope to shed some light on what licensed clinical psychologists are and how we are uniquely trained to help clients heal and thrive.

Clinical psychology graduate programs are incredibly competitive with acceptance rates between 7-15% (APA, 2016). We spend a rigorous 5-8 years in our programs in course work, doing research, learning how to administer a range of assessment tools, and getting intensive clinical training and experience. Clinical psychologists earn a PhD and therefore have among the highest levels of education of all behavior health professions (except PsyDs and EdDs who are also doctoral level and psychiatrists who have MDs and can prescribe medications).

Clinical psychologists must also have three years of supervised clinical experience with a range of clients and in many different settings. The third year is called our internship year and this is a full-time experience that is supervised and incredibly intensive. These clinical placements are in addition to clients we see starting in year one through our course requirements.

Psychologists also have to produce a masters thesis and a doctoral dissertation on their own original research. This is one area where we really hone our expertise on a topic, for example, both of my projects centered on women, marginalized identities, and the impact on health and well being. After graduation we then must take a board exam (EPPP) and our state license exam before we can be considered a "licensed clinical psychologist."

All of this means that when you meet with a licensed clinical psychologist you are meeting with someone who has among highest level of education and training in behavioral health, is trained to stay current with research and evidence-based treatments, is skilled in working with a wide range of clients and presenting concerns, and who can provide an assessment of you that integrates all areas of who you are (i.e. mental health, personality, learning, etc) .

I am so proud of being a psychologist and the level of expertise and skill that we uniquely bring to the field and am happy to talk with anyone further about this work.

If you are interested in learning more and working with me, a licensed clinical psychologist, please contact me at

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