We are now seeing face to face client again using masks and gloves to protect clients from Covid while visiting our clinics. We also offer video call sessions.
by Dr. Becky Spelman on 12/05/2019

What is a Clinical Psychologist?

Clinical psychologists often work with clients who are suffering from one or more mental illnesses, including clients who may also be taking pharmaceutical medication to help them with their symptoms. They also work with clients with a range of other issues, including learning disabilities and more generalised problems such as anxiety, or problems associated with particular events in the past, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome. A clinical psychologist can also work in specialised fields, such as health psychology or occupational therapy, or with the elderly or other demographics with specific needs. They may work in private practice, in an academic setting (especially if their primary interests are research-focused) or in an institution or national health service. Clinical psychologists can also work with individuals, as well as providing couples therapy, family therapy, or group therapy.

There is a certain amount of overlap between clinical psychology and psychiatry. Both clinical psychologists and psychiatrists often work with people who have been diagnosed as having a mental disorder and aim to improve their symptoms and quality of life. However, psychiatrists more typically take a pharmaceutical approach to mental illness and often prescribe medication, such as anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, to relieve symptoms, whereas clinical psychologists work with clients to address their issues using the clients’ own resources. This does not negate the fact that there are certainly times when people with mental illness require medication. However, clinical psychologists work on the assumption that positive change can be made without depending on pharmaceutics. In an institutional or clinic setting, psychiatrists and clinical psychologists can work together to find the best short- and long-term approaches for patients, depending on their individual needs.

How can they help?

Clinical psychologists typically start working with a client by carrying out a detailed assessment with them to determine exactly what their needs are. The assessment can include an interview, formal testing, and clinical observation, and is a crucial element of treatment, which cannot take place without it. Many different assessment tests are available to explore different types of need, and they should be used only in conjunction with other forms of exploration. After assessment, clinical psychologists generally suggest a diagnosis tailored to the client’s unique circumstances, encompassing a general impression of their personal situation in the context of the various difficulties that they face.

Once the therapist has a clear idea of the patient’s needs, they work with them to establish a psychotherapeutic relationship in which they can cooperate to examine the patient’s problems and to establish modes of change. Depending on the therapist, the client, and the situation, they might use one or more of a number of intervention types, such as free association or cognitive behavioural therapy, with a focus on understanding the patient’s problems better and formulating positive approaches that the patient can take to bring about change in their lives.

While some clinical psychologists focus on approaches that prioritise insight into how the problem arose, and others focus on developing practical methods to facilitate change, many use an integrative approach that incorporates aspects of each, while also being mindful of patients’ cultural background and unique life experiences.

How can I talk to a Clinical Psychologist in London?

If you would like to talk to someone about clinical psychology, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: 020 3887 1738 or by email at: info@privatetherapyclinic.com.


Cheshire, K. & Pilgrim, D. (2004). A short introduction to clinical psychology. London; Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Hall, John & Llewelyn, Susan (2006). What is Clinical Psychology? (4th ed.). UK: Oxford University Press

La Roche, Martin (2005). “The cultural context and the psychotherapeutic process: Toward a culturally sensitive psychotherapy”. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration. 15 (2): 169–185. doi:10.1037/1053-0479.15.2.169