What is Clinical Psychology?

Clinical psychology is generally defined as the branch of psychology concerned with studying and theorizing mental illness and psychological disorders, as well as assessing and treating those who have them. This study and research into cognitive and psychiatric disorders is often called psychopathology or abnormal psychology. Abnormal denotes the non-normative character of these illnesses relative to the baseline mental health of most individuals, usually causing distress to the afflicted and those around them.

The psychological disorders recognized by clinical psychologists are generally grouped into one of several categories:

  • Anxiety — Phobias, Social and Generalized Anxiety, Panic and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
  • Dissociative — Depersonalization/Derealization, Dissociative Amnesia, Dissociative Identity Disorder
  • Eating — Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa, Bing-Eating Disorder
  • Mood — Manic Episodes, Cyclothymic and Bipolar Disorders (I and II), Major and Persistent Depressive Disorders
  • Neurocognitive — Delirium, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's Diseases
  • Neurodevelopmental — Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity, Autism Spectrum, Conduct, and Oppositional Defiant Disorders
  • Personality — Antisocial, Avoidant, Borderline, Dependent, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal Personality Disorders
  • Psychotic — Schizophrenia, Brief Psychotic, Delusional, Schizoaffective, and Schizophreniform Disorders
  • Sexual — Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire and Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorders, Gender Dysphoria, Paraphilic Disorders
  • Somatic Symptom — Somatic Symptom, Illness Anxiety, Conversion, and Factitious Disorders
  • Substance Abuse — Alcohol Use, Substance Use, and Gambling Disorders

The ultimate goal of both clinical and abnormal psychologies is the restoration of the mental health of the patient or safety and good quality of life for those who cannot be rehabilitated. This goal may be accomplished by using any number or combination of psychotherapies, though even with therapy and medication, any of these disorders may be a lifelong ordeal for the patient.

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Clinical Psychology Resources

The broad nature of abnormal and clinical psychology combined means that hundreds of resources are accessible for students of the discipline. Through Study.com, budding psychologists can earn college credit toward their degrees in clinical psychology, decide on a theoretical orientation, or learn details about counseling and psychotherapy. Quizzes, study guides, and flashcards will keep students of all ages engaged in this in-depth study of the human mind.

Clinical Psychology Courses

Clinical psychology covers a myriad of subjects from biology and behavior, to disorders and therapies, even from the perspective of abnormal psychology alone. For this reason, hundreds of lessons related to the field are available at the high school and college levels. These courses speak to every aspect of clinical psychology, from brain science to the psychodynamics of personality and models of abnormal behavior and perception.

Clinical & Abnormal Psychology Test Prep for Teachers and Students

Test Prep

Students hoping to earn college credit for prior learning as well as those planning to pursue graduate work in psychology can benefit from Study.com's test preparation guides. These courses cover the basics of clinical psychology and explore various types of abnormal psychology including assessment and treatment of several types of disorders. After taking advantage of these materials, test-takers will feel prepared and confident as they sit for these exams.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What exactly does a clinical psychologist do?

    A clinical psychologist scientifically studies and theorizes mental illness. They also assess, classify, and treat psychological disorders in patients. Treatment may include various techniques and practices in the context of psychotherapy, the medical assistance of a psychiatrist, or both.

  • What is meant by abnormal psychology?

    Abnormal psychology is the theory and study of psychological disorders and mental illnesses. In particular, abnormal refers not to the patient but rather to the non-normative behaviors from mental illness that have become disturbing to themselves and others.