Clinical psychology is an integration of science, theory and clinical knowledge for the purpose of understanding, preventing, and relieving psychologically-based distress or dysfunction and to promote subjective well-being and personal development. Central to its practice arepsychological assessment and psychotherapy, although clinical psychologists also engage in research, teaching, consultation, forensic testimony, and program development and administration. In many countries, clinical psychology is regulated as a health care profession.
The field is often considered to have begun in 1896 with the opening of the first psychological clinicat the University of Pennsylvania by Lightner Witmer. In the first half of the 20th century, clinical psychology was focused on psychological assessment, with little attention given to treatment. This changed after the 1940s when World War II resulted in the need for a large increase in the number of trained clinicians. Since that time, two main educational models have developed—thePh.D. scientist–practitioner model (requiring a doctoral dissertation and therefore research as well as clinical expertise) and, in the U.S. the Psy.D. practitioner–scholar model.
Clinical psychologists provide psychotherapy, psychological testing, and diagnosis of mental illness. They generally train within four primary theoretical orientations—psychodynamic,humanistic, behavior therapy/cognitive-behavioral, and systems or family therapy. Many continue clinical training in post-doctoral programs in which they might specialize in disciplines such as psychoanalytic approaches or child and adolescent treatment modalities.