Clinical Versus Counseling Psychology: What’s the Diff? by John C. Norcross – University of Scranton, Fields of Psychology Graduate School The majority of psychology students applying to graduate school are interested in clinical work, and approximately half of all graduate degrees in psychology are awarded in the subfields of clinical and counseling psychology (Mayne, Norcross, & Sayette, 2000). But deciding on a health care specialization in psychology gets complicated.
The urgent question facing each student–and the question frequently posed to academic advisors–is “What are the differences between clinical psychology and counseling psychology? ” Or, as I am asked in graduate school workshops, “What’s the diff? ” This article seeks to summarize the considerable similarities and salient differences between these two psychology subfields on the basis of several recent research studies. The results can facilitate your informed choice in the application process, enhance matching between the specialization and your interests, and sharpen the respective identities of psychology training programs.
Considerable Similarities The distinctions between clinical psychology and counseling psychology have steadily faded in recent years, leading many to recommend a merger of the two. Graduates of doctorallevel clinical and counseling psychology programs are generally eligible for the same professional benefits, such as psychology licensure, independent practice, and insurance reimbursement. The American Psychological Association (APA) ceased distinguishing many years ago between clinical and counseling psychology internships: there is one list of accredited internships for both clinical and counseling psychology students.
Both types of programs prepare doctoral-level psychologists who provide health care services and, judging from various studies of their respective professional activities, there are only a few meaningful differences between them (e. g. , Gaddy, Charlot-Swilley, Nelson, & Reich, 1995; Norcross, Karg, & Prochaska, 1997; Watkins, Lopez, Campbell, & Himmell, 1986). Put differently, students interested in a career in psychological health care should certainly consider both clinical psychology and counseling psychology in their initial deliberations.
Of course, we are addressing here counseling psychology, a doctoral-level field in psychology, not the master’s-level profession of counseling. Salient Differences At the same time, a few differences between clinical psychology and counseling psychology are still visible and may impact your application decisions. Here are thumbnail sketches of these differences. Size Clinical psychology doctoral programs are more numerous than counseling psychology doctoral programs: In 1999, there were 194 APA-accredited doctoral programs in clinical psychology and 64 APA-accredited doctoral programs in counseling psychology.
Clinical psychology programs produce approximately 2,000 doctoral degrees per year (1,300 PhD and 600 to 700 PsyD), while counseling psychology programs graduate approximately 500 new psychologists per year. Location Clinical psychology graduate programs are almost exclusively housed in departments or schools of psychology, whereas counseling psychology graduate programs are located in a variety of departments and divisions.
A 1995 survey of APA-accredited counseling psychology programs found that 18% of them were housed in colleges of art and science, 75% were housed in schools of education, and 6% in interdepartmental or interinstitutional settings (Woerheide, 1996). Professional Activities The daily activities of clinical and counseling psychologists are highly similar. They devote the bulk of their day to psychotherapy, teaching, research, and supervision (Mayne et al. , 2000).
But there are a few robust differences: Clinical psychologists tend to work with more seriously disturbed populations and are more likely trained in projective assessment, whereas counseling psychology graduates work with healthier, less pathological populations and conduct more career and vocational assessment (Brems & Johnson, 1997; Fitzgerald & Osipow, 1986; Watkins, Lopez, Campbell, & Himmell, 1986). Theoretical Orientations In one of our recent studies (Bechtoldt et al. , 2000), we compared the theoretical orientations and employment settings of APA’s Division 12 (Clinical) and 17 (Counseling) psychologists (N = 1,389).
These results are summarized in Table 1. Again, the convergence was more impressive than the divergence: 29% of both divisions embraced the eclectic/integrative orientation and 26% endorsed the cognitive orientation. However, clinical psychologists more frequently favored the behavioral and psychoanalytic (but not psychodynamic) persuasions, and counseling psychologists the client-centered and humanistic traditions. The same pattern holds true for the theoretical orientations of faculty members. In one of our studies (Norcross et al. 1998) examining the theoretical orientations of faculty in doctoral clinical and counseling psychology programs, we found a higher percentage of psychodynamic faculty in clinical PsyD programs, a higher percentage of humanistic faculty in counseling PhD programs, and a higher percentage of cognitive-behavioral faculty in clinical PhD programs. Employment Settings Previous research has consistently found that clinical and counseling psychologists are employed in similar settings, with private practice and universities leading the way. But here, too, we find salient differences.
Counseling psychologists are more frequently employed in university counseling centers, whereas clinicians are more frequently employed in hospital settings (Gaddy, Charlot-Swilley, Nelson, & Reich, 1995; Watkins, Lopez, Campbell, & Himmell, 1986). The following table summarizes data from the APA (1997) national membership base. As seen here, Division 12 clinical psychologists were more often employed in private practice, hospitals, and medical schools. By contrast, Division 17 counseling psychologists were more likely to be located in universities (particularly university counseling centers) and other human service settings.
Graduate Admissions In a large study, colleagues and I set out to obtain critical information on the admission statistics and student characteristics of APA-accredited programs in counseling and clinical psychology (see Norcross et al. , 1998, for details). We secured the following information: Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores and grade point averages (GPAs), number of applicants and acceptances, percentages of incoming students entering with a baccalaureate only and those with a master’s degree, and the percentages of incoming students who were women and minorities.
Current State of the Business
Current State of the Business.
ECONOMIC CHALLENGE You are the General Manager of an organization of a legal entity (wholly owned subsidiary of the parent company). In addition, this organization is generating over $1 Billion dollars in operational revenue (5%) of the total revenue for the parent company and approximately 8% of the operational profit of the parent company. At your headquarters office, which is about 1,000 miles from the parent company headquarters, you have 500 employees working at this site. It has one elective officer of the company (yourself) 7 directors; about 40 managers who are all classified as exempt (at least have a Master Degree). It is Thursday morning and you receive a phone call from your direct supervisor who is an Executive V.P.He informs you that the company’s lobbyist (extremely high power attorney) in Washington D.C. has justcompleted a conference call with the Executive Operating Committee and has informed them that the Federal Government will be “shut down” within the next 48 hours. (Most of you were too young to remember and/or recall this event so you will have to research its occurrence plus the events just beforeand after. A hint: This was when our “infamous President of the United States” was committing “child abuse” with a young intern that was 1/3 of his age. Later he would lie to a Grand Jury about the event and subsequently be impeached by one House of Congress.” Also, speaks to the issues of ethics and integrity which is related to a portion of our materials of leadership. Your Executive V.P. is indicating that you must be in headquarters on Monday morning to present your strategy and immediate plans of operations as roughly 30% of your business comes from the Federal Government. One particular concern is the expectant cash flow that will not occur due to non-payment of invoices. Per the lobbyist briefing no one will be paid while the Federal Government is “shut down.” In addition, no procurement, installation of equipment, or delivery of equipment will take place during this closure. What is still in a “grey zone” is whether maintenance can and/or will be performed as it appears that certain operations and administrative activities within the government will be performed by staffers that are not “Civil Servants.” Although the lobbyist is very in tune with the “climate” within the Congress; he has stated that it is “anyone’s guess” as to how long this situation will continue but he is very sure that military operations will continue so that segment of the government will be “doing business as usual.” You and your staff have put in place a contingency plan for this event of government closure. However, this rough draft of such has been in place for a couple of years simply as a what if situation. It actually had come about as the result of a surprise “shut down” by the State of Ohio that caused major disruptions in the operations at that time as the organization was conducting a “major roll out” and installation when the State of Ohio had shut down for about 30 days. Civil lawsuit liabilities claims were still in the court system over that debauchment. However, “more meat on the bones” had been recently been added to this draft contingency plan due to feedback from the lobbyist over the past 30 days. Also, if the Federal Government should shut down it would have much more material impact on business than the two-year-old experience with the State of Ohio. Task and/or Project: Prepare a “Report” which in conclusion would provide an overall course of action as to how your entity will be operating during this “shut down.” This statement must include your course of action if this “shut down” so impacted your operations that it would become necessary for the partial discontinuance of operations of certain activities in your operation. Do not repeat any of the above Case situation statements or facts/circumstances within the minimum 6 pages of your statement. Deduction of points will result if these statements/facts/circumstances are repeated within the minimum or complete text of pages for this assignment. To emphasize a twice made statement: “Tell me something that I do not know.” Instructions: •Read and analyze the above case. •Provide the requested report which is like a narrative “current state of business.”. •Prepare response in APA format •6 pages of text content. Responses must be ample text to directly provide guidelines for your course of actions and operations activity during the shutdown. No PowerPoint or Bullet dots – must be sentence structure and within paragraphs
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