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Clinical vs. Counseling Psychology


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Sorry if there is already another thread on this, but I wanted to ask: Can you do a counseling psychology PhD degree and specialize in neuropsychology?

Also what are the main differences between counseling and clinical psychology PhD programs, and how does this affect the process of getting into internship, post-doc and getting licensure? Is there a difference in what you are qualified to do in your career?


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In general, clinical psychology is typically more focused on psychopathology, neuromechanics, or other more scientifically driven processes. Counseling psychology, contrarily, focuses more on therapeutic techniques. However, this is a gross overgeneralization. Each program is very different, some use the names interchangeably, some offer cross-competencies, some line pigeon-hole you in one direction. Look at the faculty and student profiles to get a better idea of each school that interests you.

Each school lines you up for specific specialty focuses, and those focuses help line you up for post-grad opportunities.The internship, post-doc, and licensure all depend on the qualifications you muster while at your doctoral program. For instance, if you focus on scientific analysis over therapeutic techniques, then you're better suited for scientific post-docs. If you focus on therapeutic techniques and counseling practicums, you'd be better lined up for a counseling license over other more scientific avenues. 

If you have more specific questions about the counseling license requirements, that is state specific and can be found here: http://www.counselor-license.com/resources/state-counselor-license.html. As a side note, if you're interested in being a counselor over a researcher, you may want to consider a masters with a license over a doctoral. 

Edited by _kita
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  • 5 weeks later...

The differences between the two specialties is more historical than anything else. That is, they have their origins in disparate areas, but they are currently much more alike than different. You will find greater diversity within the specialties than between them. They lead to the same licensure and you will find people from each working in the same spaces. Try to locate a mentor (in either specialty) with research that interests you and be less concerned about the distinction, is my opinion.

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I'm in my last year of a counseling psych program (on internship), and my experience has been that the counseling psych students' research interests are (broadly) more focused on career and multicultural/social justice issues. By comparison, the clinical psych students I've taken classes with tend to be much more focused on psychopathology (as kita mentioned) and neuropsych. That being said, both concentrations are required to take neuropsych and a subset of other core classes. With regard to internship, counseling psych students have traditionally skewed more toward university counseling center settings, but there are so many individual difference factors that come into play when deciding between applying to clinical or counseling, such as pursuing a research mentor who shares similar interests. More info on match stats between clinical and counseling students can be found here: http://www.appic.org/Match/MatchStatistics/ApplicantSurvey2016Part2.aspx. As schizometric mentioned, both clinical and counseling psych lead to the same licensure as a state-licensed clinical psychologist.

Edited by Yaris
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