Teresa Susmaras – What is Clinical Psychology?

American psychologist Lightner Witmer is credited with being the first to treat a patient with clinical psychology when he cared for a young boy with a learning disability in the late 19th century.  Shortly afterwards, Witmer founded the first ever psychological clinic, located at the University of Pennsylvania and specializing in the treatment of children.  The term clinical psychology was first used in 1907 when Witmer used the phrase in his new publication, The Psychology Clinic.

Clinical psychology is the combination of clinical knowledge, science and theory for the intention of helping, understanding and preventing psychological dysfunction.  Clinical psychologists treat patients through psychological assessments aimed at gaining an understanding of the mental and emotional health of the patient.  Mental and emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, anxiety and depression are some of the conditions treated by clinical psychologists.

When assessing patients, clinical psychologists employ a variety of techniques to determine the root of the particular problems they are experiencing.  Methods may include psychological testing, interviews with family members and friends, observation of the patient and intelligence testing.  Interviewing friends and family allows for an outside perspective of the patient’s personality.  Through these methods, clinical psychologists seek to determine the possible causes and foundation of the patient’s mental state.

Teresa Susmaras became interested in clinical psychology while working as a research assistant as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago.  She went on to earn both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Suffolk University and is now a licensed psychologist.