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                                 Clinical Psychology

The famous psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan once defined a psychiatrist as an expert in human relationships.  Today, many psychiatrists would eschew this definition, preferring to emphasize their expertise in psycho-pharmaceuticals.  However, I love the spirit of Sullivan’s thought.  I think it could be expanded and applied to current-day clinical psychologists:  a Clinical Psychologist is an expert in human nature, human relationships, and psychological growth.  While other clinical psychologists might not put it exactly this way, I doubt if many would strongly disagree.

Clinical psychologists are trained in the methods of science.  Those with higher levels of training (doctorate) usually have had to carry out at least one significant piece of scientific research.  Because of this, they appreciate the value of objectivity in whatever they do.  They don't simply hope to use their influence to turn the world into some sort of place that their personal belief system might wish for.  One thing scientific work teaches early is that even the most cherished and sensible-feeling beliefs may turn out not to be true when tested in the hard light of scientific results. 

Clinical psychologists frequently work directly with clients in distress.  However, the training that goes into becoming a clinical psychologist is often more general than that.  People with such training sometimes work to create helpful kinds of change in many kinds of human systems. 

A therapeutic practitioner of clinical psychology is like any doctor, inasmuch as we approach them with some sort of suffering, and hope to be helped.  The kind of help we receive will be psychological in nature.  That is, it will have something to do with how we think, and feel, and tend to behave, or the skills with which we approach things.  As a client, we will end up most satisfied if we approach this help actively and not passively.  We will not just be "done to."  We may be asked to develop a psychotherapeutic relationship, and explore feelings and situations honestly.  We may be asked to take part in some sort of psycho-education, in which we may learn new attitudes and skills.  We may be asked to try out some new ways of doing things, and urged to be objective ourselves in observing the results. Research shows that when the client approaches therapy more earnestly and openly in exploring feelings and problems, gains are greater.