Psychological assistants help evaluate and treat patients in correctional institutes, residential schools, treatment facilities and hospitals. They work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, although the job duties vary by employer. Most states recognize psychological assistants as candidates who aspire to be licensed psychologists, but some employers hire them to fill the role of technicians or aides. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they may specialize in clinical, counseling, developmental, forensic, industrial-organizational, school or social psychology.
Knowledge and Credentials
Psychological assistants typically need a minimum of a master's degree in psychology or a closely related field, or a bachelor's and experience in psych work. Additional requirements vary by state. For example, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says psychological assistants must hold a master's degree in psychology, provide proof of working under the supervision of a licensed psychologist and register with the state. Assistants must understand social science, personality theories and the dynamics of behavior to succeed in the job. They must be reliable and possess good interpersonal skills.
Analysis and Collaboration
Psychological assistants are active members of treatment teams. They conduct the same process for each patient to identify their problems and needs. To do this, they administer numerous experiments, psychoanalysis procedures and assessments, such as personality and aptitude tests. Assistants use the results to help design and implement customized treatment programs. For example, some patients may need routine therapy, while others are best treated with medication. The assistant updates records to track the effectiveness of treatment, noting any behavioral changes, and helps to modify procedures if necessary.
Research and Presentation
Psychological assistants frequently conduct research on emotional and behavioral patterns and problems, and may have a hand in research projects or program evaluations. Keeping up with the evolving field allows them to accurately interpret psychological issues, such as a patient with borderline personality disorder rather than bipolar disorder. Assistants shadow licensed psychologists in all of their assignments, including attending conferences about diagnoses and treatments. They may present information to civic and professional organizations or groups on aspects of mental health.
Income and Advancement
The national average salary of psychological assistants was $49,023 a year, as of August 2014 CareerBuilder data. Assistants usually become licensed psychologists after completing a residency, internship or other supervised work experience, and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. The BLS expects employment of psychologists to increase 12 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Competition for jobs will depend on the specialty. Candidates with a specialist or doctoral degree and post-doctoral work experience should have the best opportunities.
- Texas State Auditor's Office: State Classification Job Description : Psychological Assistant
- Office of State Employment Relations: State of Wisconsin Classification Specification : Psychological Services Assistant
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Psychologist
- CareerBuilder: Salary Calculator : Psychological Assistant
- Florida Area Health Education Centers Network: Mental Health Technician / Aide
- Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services: Psychological Assistant and Psychologist Associate
- Photo Credit monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images
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