(As seen on Huff Post)
If you’re considering a career as a psychologist AND you plan to practice in New York City, you’re in luck.
Serving the mental health needs of New Yorkers as a psychologist in private practice is more than just great…it’s the most rewarding career path available. Of course, I’m just a tiny bit biased, but I stand by my assertion and you’ll learn why I feel so strongly about it.
Keep in mind that I’m generally referring to what it’s like to be a New York City psychologist in private practice as opposed to working in a hospital, school or clinic setting. You can also have a rewarding career as a psychologist outside of the private practice setting, but running your own show takes the experience a hundred levels higher. And even if you want to be in private practice, you almost always have to train and work in other settings before you can practice independently
All I will say to qualify my bold statement is that a career as a psychologist can only be so profoundly amazing if the following are true:
- You can handle the uncertainty of lacking a regular, predictable paycheck.
- You don’t worship money.
- You have exceptional listening skills, you tend to root for the underdog, you have the humility to take responsibility for your actions in interpersonal conflict and you don’t unravel when you hear about extreme mental suffering.
Yes, this is a gross oversimplification of what makes a solid psychologist, but it will have to do for now.
The Life of the NYC Psychologist
- First and foremost, you get to meet the most intelligent, dynamic and talented group of people in the world. Can you imagine how enjoyable it would be to spend your day enhancing the lives of the movers and shakers of the world? It’s wildly exciting to help younger generations who have the drive, talent, creativity and mental ability to change the world. A typical day may involve working with an ambitious student, then a programmer, then a talented finance or professional, then an entertainer, then a C-suite executive. It’s amazing! I learn as much from my patients as they do from me.
- You learn how to mix art with science to enhance the lives of people who are the world’s best artists and scientists. The best therapy is one that mixes objectively proven techniques with artful, interpersonal maneuvers. Psychologists, especially skilled ones, take mental health care to the next level by offering much than what a book or manual can teach. They mix art into their approach, which adds an intangible element that promotes personal transformation.
- You feel like you’re making a difference in the world on a daily basis. Since New York attracts such a unique type of individual, it can feel like you’re having a profound effect on society by improving the lives of people who make things happen for the world. As your skillset grows, so will your ability to create significant changes for your patients, which in turn, will make them more effective in their influence on the world.
- You become an expert in New York City culture without trying. Imagine being constantly taught about the subtleties of city life, the latest trends, memes, metaphors, fashion, art and everything that makes NYC so unique. It gives you the sense that you have your finger on the pulse of the Center of the Universe, the world’s largest think tank. Clients will incorporate their vast array of cultural opportunities into their therapy. For example, you will get to talk with clients about Hamilton after they see the show, or an art installation, gala or tech convention.
- Investing in self-improvement becomes a thunderclap of wellness that spreads across the city. If you read about an interesting concept, you’re suddenly equipped with a powerful metaphor to use with certain clients. Take on the task of reading a self-help book or attending a seminar and your clients will indirectly benefit from what you personally reap.
- You make your own hours which gives you a invigorating sense of freedom.While everyone else is counting vacation days, imprisoned within a cube city and reporting to a boss, you get to do whatever you feel like. Even with a full roster of patients, there’s still tons of time to play in the city. This can be problematic if you’re undisciplined or you crave the structure offered by a regular paycheck. To be honest, I would give up the predictability of a regular paycheck in a heartbeat for the freedom to walk outside on a two-hour break between sessions to sit in a wonderful coffee shop and write a blog post, take an hour-long stroll and soak in the city’s spirit and beauty, schmooze with New Yorkers or casually browse through a magic shop or a used book store.
- You’re exposed to the most diverse group of people and ideas on the planet. In a single day, you might work with people from six different countries, or help someone manage the stress of the inner city right after assisting someone with managing the stress of running a large company. You get to talk with people with high aspirations, people from backgrounds unlike your own who care about the world and want to make it a better place.
Find out exactly what a clinical psychologist does. Here are some commonly asked questions regarding the role of a clinical psychologist in New York City.
What is the role of a clinical psychologist?
A clinical psychologist works with people to improve their social, emotional, mental and behavioral problems. First, a clinical psychologist conducts an assessment of the problem to arrive at a diagnosis via interviews, observation and sometimes psychological testing. Next, they create a treatment plan with the client and help them to identify goals that the client wants to work on. Then, the clinical psychologist carries out psychological treatment to help the client achieve the goals. Progress is monitored over the course of treatment.
I have been conducting psychotherapy in New York City for over 20 years. One benefit of being a clinical psychologist, as opposed to other types of therapists in NYC, is that my clinical doctoral training in assessment and diagnosis tends to be more extensive than what is offered in most other mental health degree programs.
Some clinical psychologists do research, teach or consult for organizations/businesses to solve systemic and individual issues.
Is the job of a clinical psychologist in New York City different than that in other places?
The role of clinical psychologists in New York City is generally the same as that in other parts of the country. However, there are a few subtle but important differences when compared to clinical psychologists in New York State or other places.
First, in NYC clinical psychologists tend to be more trained in working with people from diverse backgrounds. The amazing diversity of NYC’s population necessitates that New York City clinical psychologists have an added sensitivity to people with alternative lifestyles and varied backgrounds.
Second, the fast-paced speed of everyday life, the noise, the lack of space and the general pressure to achieve success makes New York City a challenging place to live. As a Manhattan clinical psychologist, I am frequently helping people manage their career achievement needs and the stress generated from wanting to “make it big” here in New York. As a result, I have the honor of working with some incredibly ambitious people who are changing the world.
Third, it is my belief that a New York City clinical psychologist also helps people cope with the lack of a sense of community in the city. Other parts of the country have more of a community feel. The absence of community creates the potential for feeling a sense of emptiness, isolation and loneliness, especially when you are new to NYC. A clinical psychologist in New York City who has been in practice for a long time must know how to help patients cope with this kind of challenge.
Please note that other kinds of NYC psychotherapists with lots of clinical experience also learn to help people manage the unique combination of isolation and pressure found in New York City.
What is the Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychologist?
A therapist is a generic term for any mental health clinician who meets face-to-face (or online) with patients to alleviate their emotional suffering. Be careful though. There are also many types of therapists that are not associated with mental health, such as a physical therapist, speech therapist and occupational therapist.
A psychologist is a type of therapist, one with the most rigorous training out of all the types of mental health therapists. Psychologists tend to have more years of clinical training and more hours of supervision and clinical experience even before they graduate from their program.
How long does it take to become a clinical psychologist?
In order to become a clinical psychologist, you need to complete your Bachelor’s Degree first. Some clinical psychologist also complete a two-year Master’s Program in Counseling or a related mental health field before their clinical psychology doctoral program. However, clinical psychology doctoral program students are awarded a Master’s Degree after two years and them they continue on for their doctorate.
Overall, a doctorate in clinical psychology can take between 4-7 years, sometimes even longer. There are three years of graduate classes during which doctoral students are completing supervised clinical training (aka externships) in various mental health settings, such as a hospital, clinic or school counseling center. Once the coursework is complete, the doctoral student has to complete a one-year internship in an accredited mental health setting. After the internship the doctorate is awarded. Then the new psychologist must complete about 2000 hours of post-graduate training before receiving a license in a particular state. Please note that the information provided here varies greatly across states in the US. Please see here for more on the topic.
What is the difference between a psychologist and a clinical psychologist?
A psychologist is a general term for a professional who went to a doctoral program in psychology. A clinical psychologist is an expert in the human mind that attended an accredited doctoral program in clinical psychology. Clinical psychologists also work directly with human subjects. In other words, clinical psychologists work with clients. Other non-clinical psychologists may draw from the same knowledge based but they do not necessarily work directly with clients.
There are other types of psychologists, including industrial psychologists, social psychologists, forensic psychologists and sports psychologists.
Do you need a doctorate to be a clinical psychologist?
Yes, you need a doctoral degree to be a clinical psychologist. You can get a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree or a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD) degree in order to be a psychologist.
In some mental health settings, I have seen people loosely use the word “psychologist” to refer to the mental health clinician on staff regardless of their degree, but the true definition of the role implies earning a doctorate in psychology.
What is a PsyD ?
A PsyD or Psy.D. represents a “doctor of psychology,” which is a practitioner’s degree in clinical, counseling or school psychology). In contrast to a PhD, the training you receive at a PsyD program tends to involve more clinical training and more hours of supervised face-to-face interaction with patients. There are probably exceptions. Phd programs in clinical psychology tend to have more of a research focus. While a lot more PhDs are hired for teaching roles, PsyDs are hired as well in universities.
In my PsyD program I received extensive training in clinical psychology, conducted hundreds of hours of supervised psychotherapy AND I wrote a PhD-level dissertation. It was not my original intention to create such a mammoth dissertation, and you generally do not have to write a huge dissertation in a PsyD program. It can be a more contained project.
Is a clinical psychologist a doctor?
Yes, a clinical psychologist is considered a doctor of psychology (not to be confused with an MD, or medical doctor.
What is the difference between a clinical psychologist, a clinical social worker, a mental health counselor and a marriage and family therapist?
A clinical social worker (LCSW) helps people to cope with emotional, behavioral and mental issues, but the training does not include as much emphasis on assessment and diagnosis as compared to a clinical psychology doctoral program. Many LCSWs take their education a step further by attending extensive training programs in specific areas following the completion of their clinical hours for licensure. Social workers receive impressive training in understanding and navigating through various systems that interact with the individual. See here for more on this degree.
A mental health counselor is a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. See here for more on this degree.
A marriage and family therapist (LMFT) is a specialized degree that focuses primarily on marital and family counseling. There is also training in individual therapy. See here for more on this degree.
What is the difference between clinical psychologists and psychiatrists in New York State?
A clinical psychologist is a PhD or PsyD helps alleviate emotional suffering via various forms of talk therapy.
A psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor (M.D.) who went on to specialize in psychiatry. Psychiatrists tend to work with people who are grappling with more serious forms of emotional suffering, but not always. Some psychiatrists also conduct psychotherapy. They tend to lean toward medication as the solution for emotional problems.
Clinical psychologists in New York State are not permitted to prescribe medication. Nor do they do not receive any formal training in prescribing medication.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions about the field of clinical psychology or to get started in therapy.Learn More