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What Does a Psychologist, Private Practice Do

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

Duties

Psychologists typically do the following:

  • Conduct scientific studies of behavior and brain function
  • Collect information through observations, interviews, surveys, and other methods
  • Identify psychological, emotional, behavioral, or organizational issues and diagnose disorders, using information obtained from their research
  • Research and identify behavioral or emotional patterns
  • Test for patterns that will help them better understand and predict behavior
  • Discuss the treatment of problems with their clients
  • Write articles, research papers, and reports to share findings and educate others

Psychologists seek to understand and explain thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behavior. Psychologists use techniques such as observation, assessment, and experimentation to develop theories about the beliefs and feelings that influence a person.

Psychologists often gather information and evaluate behavior through controlled laboratory experiments, psychoanalysis, or psychotherapy. They also may administer personality, performance, aptitude, or intelligence tests. They look for patterns of behavior or relationships between events, and use this information when testing theories in their research or treating patients.

The following are examples of types of psychologists:

Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Clinical psychologists help people deal with problems ranging from short-term personal issues to severe, chronic conditions.

Clinical psychologists are trained to use a variety of approaches to help individuals. Although strategies generally differ by specialty, clinical psychologists often interview patients, give diagnostic tests, and provide individual, family, or group psychotherapy. They also design behavior modification programs and help patients implement their particular program.

Some clinical psychologists focus on certain populations, such as children or the elderly, or certain specialties, such as the following:

  • Health psychologists study how psychological and behavioral factors interact with health and illness. They educate both patients and medical staff on psychological issues and promote healthy-living strategies. They also investigate and develop programs to address common health-related behaviors, such as smoking, poor diet, and sedentary behavior.
  • Neuropsychologists study the effects of brain injuries, brain disease, developmental disorders, or mental health conditions on behavior and thinking. They test patients affected by known or suspected brain conditions to determine impacts on thinking and to direct patients’ treatment.

Clinical psychologists often consult with other health professionals regarding the best treatment for patients, especially treatment that includes medication. Currently, Illinois, Louisiana, and New Mexico allow clinical psychologists to prescribe medication to patients. Most states, however, do not allow psychologists to prescribe medication for treatment.

Counseling psychologists help patients deal with and understand problems, including issues at home, at the workplace, or in their community. Through counseling, they work with patients to identify their strengths or resources they can use to manage problems. For information on other counseling occupations, see the profiles on mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, and social workers.

Developmental psychologists study the psychological progress and development that take place throughout life. Many developmental psychologists focus on children and adolescents, but they also may study aging and problems facing older adults.

Forensic psychologists use psychological principles in the legal and criminal justice system to help judges, attorneys, and other legal specialists understand the psychological aspects of a particular case. They often testify in court as expert witnesses. They typically specialize in family, civil, or criminal case work.

Industrial-organizational psychologists apply psychology to the workplace by using psychological principles and research methods to solve problems and improve the quality of work life. They study issues such as workplace productivity, management or employee working styles, and employee morale. They also work with management on matters such as policy planning, employee screening or training, and organizational development.

School psychologists apply psychological principles and techniques to education and developmental disorders. They may address student learning and behavioral problems; design and implement performance plans, and evaluate performances; and counsel students and families. They also may consult with other school-based professionals to suggest improvements to teaching, learning, and administrative strategies.

Social psychologists study how people’s mindsets and behavior are shaped by social interactions. They examine both individual and group interactions and may investigate ways to improve interactions.

Some psychologists become postsecondary teachers or high school teachers.

How To Become a Psychologist, Private Practice

Although psychologists typically need a doctoral degree in psychology, a master’s degree is sufficient for some positions. Psychologists in independent practice also need a license.

Education

Most clinical, counseling, and research psychologists need a doctoral degree. Students can complete a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. A Ph.D. in psychology is a research degree that is obtained after taking a comprehensive exam and writing a dissertation based on original research. Ph.D programs typically include courses on statistics and experimental procedures. The Psy.D. is a clinical degree and is often based on practical work and examinations rather than a dissertation. In clinical, counseling, school, or health service settings, students usually complete a 1-year internship as part of the doctoral program.

School psychologists need an advanced degree and certification or licensure to work. The advanced degree is most commonly the education specialist degree (Ed.S.), which typically requires a minimum of 60 graduate semester credit hours and a 1,200-hour supervised internship. Some school psychologists may have a doctoral degree in school psychology or a master’s degree. School psychologists’ programs include coursework in both education and psychology because their work addresses education and mental health components of students’ development.

Graduates with a master’s degree in psychology can work as industrial-organizational psychologists. When working under the supervision of a doctoral psychologist, master’s graduates can also work as psychological assistants in clinical, counseling, or research settings. Master’s degree programs typically include courses in industrial-organizational psychology, statistics, and research design.

Most master’s degree programs do not require an undergraduate major in psychology, but do require coursework in introductory psychology, experimental psychology, and statistics. Some doctoral degree programs require applicants to have a master’s degree in psychology; others will accept applicants with a bachelor’s degree and a major in psychology. 

Most graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology find work in other fields such as business administration, sales, or education.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In most states, practicing psychology or using the title of “psychologist” requires licensure. In all states and the District of Columbia, psychologists who practice independently must be licensed where they work.

Licensing laws vary by state and type of position. Most clinical and counseling psychologists need a doctorate in psychology, an internship, at least 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience, and to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Information on specific state requirements can be obtained from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. In many states, licensed psychologists must complete continuing education courses to keep their licenses.

The American Board of Professional Psychology awards specialty certification in 15 areas of psychology, such as clinical health, couple and family, or rehabilitation. The American Board of Professional Neuropsychology offers certification in neuropsychology. Board certification can demonstrate professional expertise in a specialty area. Certification is not required for most psychologists, but some hospitals and clinics do require certification. In those cases, candidates must have a doctoral degree in psychology, state license or certification, and any additional criteria of the specialty field.

Training

Prospective practicing psychologists must have pre- or post-doctoral supervised experience, including an internship. Internships allow students to gain experience in an applied setting. Candidates must complete an internship before they can qualify for state licensure. The required number of hours of the internship varies by state.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Psychologists must be able to examine the information they collect and draw logical conclusions from them.

Communication skills. Psychologists must have strong communication skills because they spend much of their time listening to and speaking with patients. 

Observational skills. Psychologists study attitude and behavior. They must be able to watch people and understand the possible meanings of facial expressions, body positions, actions, and interactions.

Patience. Psychologists must be able to demonstrate patience, because conducting research or treating patients may take a long time.

People skills. Psychologists study and help people. They must be able to work well with clients, patients, and other professionals.

Problem-solving skills. Psychologists need problem-solving skills to design research, evaluate programs, and find treatments or solutions for mental and behavioral problems.

Trustworthiness. Psychologists must keep patients’ problems in confidence, and patients must be able to trust psychologists’ expertise in treating sensitive problems.

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Average Salary
$80,310
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
14%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
12,264
Job Openings

Psychologist, Private Practice Career Paths

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Average Salary for a Psychologist, Private Practice

Psychologists, Private Practice in America make an average salary of $80,310 per year or $39 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $99,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $64,000 per year.
Average Salary
$80,310

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Psychologist In Nurturing Group Practice Providing Depth-Oriented Psychotherapy
Psychologist In Nurturing Group Practice Providing Depth-Oriented Psychotherapy
American Psychological Association
American Psychological Association
10/13/2020
10/13/2020
$50,00010/13/2020
$50,000
Psychologist In Nurturing Group Practice Providing Depth-Oriented, Emotion-Focused Psychotherapy
Psychologist In Nurturing Group Practice Providing Depth-Oriented, Emotion-Focused Psychotherapy
American Psychological Association
American Psychological Association
03/02/2020
03/02/2020
$50,00003/02/2020
$50,000
Psychologist, Private Practice
Psychologist, Private Practice
Schott Associates Eye Care
Schott Associates Eye Care
11/21/2019
11/21/2019
$100,00011/21/2019
$100,000
Psychologist, Private Practice
Psychologist, Private Practice
Schott Associates Eye Care
Schott Associates Eye Care
08/31/2019
08/31/2019
$100,00008/31/2019
$100,000
Psychologist, Private Practice
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Associated Eye Care
Associated Eye Care
07/01/2019
07/01/2019
$100,00007/01/2019
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Psychologist, Private Practice Demographics

Gender

female

50.2 %

male

43.1 %

unknown

6.8 %

Ethnicity

White

83.1 %

Hispanic or Latino

7.2 %

Black or African American

5.0 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

54.2 %

French

9.7 %

German

8.3 %
See More Demographics

Psychologist, Private Practice Education

Majors

Degrees

Bachelors

34.3 %

Masters

28.9 %

Doctorate

21.5 %

Top Colleges for Psychologist, Private Practices

1. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

3. Boston University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,948
Enrollment
17,238

4. New York University

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339

5. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

6. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

7. Washington University in St Louis

Saint Louis, MO • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,399
Enrollment
7,356

8. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

9. California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach, CA • Public

In-State Tuition
$6,798
Enrollment
31,503

10. Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA • Public

In-State Tuition
$18,454
Enrollment
40,108
See More Education Info
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Top Skills For a Psychologist, Private Practice

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 17.9% of psychologists, private practice listed group therapy on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and communication skills are important as well.

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Top Psychologist, Private Practice Employers

1. SCHOTT
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$83,132
Psychologist, Private Practices Hired: 
3+
2. American Psychological Association
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$96,474
Psychologist, Private Practices Hired: 
2+
3. GUESS
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$98,243
Psychologist, Private Practices Hired: 
2+
4. Center For Family Services
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$70,776
Psychologist, Private Practices Hired: 
2+
5. University of Rhode Island
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$84,829
Psychologist, Private Practices Hired: 
1+
6. Cordis
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$86,688
Psychologist, Private Practices Hired: 
1+
Updated October 2, 2020