At Purple House, most of our clinicians are Clinical Psychologists. Read below to find out about how Clinical Psychologists work and how they compare to other, related, mental health professionals.
Psychology is the study of the human mind and behaviour. Clinical Psychology is a branch of psychology aimed at reducing psychological distress and enhancing well-being. Doctorate level training is required to legally practice as a Clinical Psychologist, conferring the title 'Doctor'. Doctorate training is preceded by an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and often a Masters level qualification. In the UK, practising Clinical Psychologists are regulated by the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) and they are required by law to maintain registration with this professional body.
Clinical Psychologists work with people of all ages, including young children. We work with individuals, couples, groups, families, professionals and organisations. We help a range of mental health, physical health, cognitive, personality and behavioural problems. We are trained in undertaking detailed psychological assessments in order to understand the nature of a person's difficulties. Where required, these might include clinical interviews, psychometric assessments, and observations of behaviour. The process is scientific and triangulated. Assessment results in the development of a 'formulation'. Based on our knowledge of psychology, this is an analysis about the nature of the problem and about the causal and maintaining factors. These may include biological, social or psychological factors. The formulation is usually explicitly shared with the client, or adult carer. Assessment and formulation leads to the development of a treatment/ intervention plan. This may lead to us offering psychological therapy, or to alternative methods of intervention such as advice/support to families or consultancy to professionals or organisations. Our interventions may be 'systemic' (influencing the persons, organisations, or environment around the client), as well as facilitating change within the individual. Our therapies are structured and evidence-based, grounded in psychological theory e.g. CBT. Clinical Psychologists are trained in delivering a range of psychological therapies and systemic interventions. The therapies are usually 'active', directing the client to an alternative way of thinking or doing.
We also have Forensic and Educational Psychologists work with us at Purple House. Their original training will have focused on working with offenders and children in an educational context (respectively) but there is often a clinical overlap with the role of a Clinical Psychologist.
Psychiatrists are medically trained Doctors. They have undertaken a general medical degree, followed by several years of 'on the job' specialist training in Psychiatry. To practise Psychiatry, Psychiatrists have to pass an exam to register with the Royal College of Psychiatry, and they need to be licensed by the General Medical Council. Although Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists may work with similar client groups, the two professions are quite distinct. One key difference is that psychiatrists are medically trained. As such, they tend to be more concerned with the diagnosis of mental health problems (i.e. assessing for the presence of certain symptoms in order to categorise a problem). Formulation (used by Clinical Psychologists) is different from 'diagnosis', as it provides a detailed and individual understanding of a person's situation - and it is not concerned with categorising or labelling a person's difficulties. Psychiatrists also tend to be more concerned with physical/biological factors that may contribute to mental health, and they can prescribe medication. Clinical Psychologists do not prescribe medication and tend to focus on the psychological and social aspects of a person’s difficulties. Psychiatrists are not usually trained therapists (although some train as Psychotherapists- see below), whereas Clinical Psychologists are trained in a range of psychological therapies.
Currently, in the UK, counselling is a non-regulated profession. There is no minimum level of training required to practice and the term 'Counsellor' is not legally protected. Most training for Counselling is diploma level training. Professional bodies like the BACP work towards setting a minimum standard for Counsellors and Counsellors can join as members. Counsellors work with similar clients to Psychologists and Psychiatrists, focussing on 1:1, couple or group work. Counsellors offer a supportive and caring listening environment, helping a client define problems in their own terms. The help the client define what they wish to do next and help the client become aware of existing (utilised) resources. Sessions tend to be non-structured and consist of whatever the client ‘brings’ to the session to talk about. Counsellors generally do not direct clients or give advice.
The term 'Psychotherapist' can be a confusing one. Like 'Counsellor', it is not a legally protected and therefore it can be adopted by anyone referring to their practise of a 'psychotherapy' (talking therapy). However, some titles like 'Registered Psychotherapist' are legally protected and regulated by professional bodies such as the UKCP who ensure high standards of training. A Psychotherapist may be someone who is also qualified in another, related, profession e.g. Clinical Psychology, Mental Health Nursing, Psychiatry, and who has trained specifically in one or more type of Psychotherapy. However, Psychotherapists can also train solely in one or more type of Psychotherapy e.g. cognitive/behavioural therapy, psychodynamic therapy, psychoanalytical therapy, art therapy, play therapy etc. Registered Psychotherapists are often very highly trained in their particular speciality e.g. psychoanalytical therapy. Psychotherapists work with individuals, couples, groups and families. Psychotherapy is aimed at alleviating distress, relationship problems or troublesome habits. As the term 'Psychotherapist' can refer to the practise of a range of different therapies, the approach will depend on the training and professional background of each individual. However, on the whole, therapies delivered by a 'Psychotherapist' tend to be less structured and directive than those practised by Clinical Psychologists (with some exceptions e.g. CBT). Psychotherapists have less emphasis on formal assessment and formulation than Clinical Psychologists, and tend not to work systemically (with the people, organisations or environment surrounding the person).