A Day in the Life: Clinical Psychologist Dr. Kezia Jackson

| Nina Chamlou

A Day in the Life: Clinical Psychologist Dr. Kezia Jackson

If you're pursuing an education in clinical psychology, you've probably wondered what your work life will be like after graduation.

This can vary significantly depending on your specialty and desired work environment. Private practice is the most popular work setting for clinical psychologists — almost half of professionals choose to work in private settings.

We talked to Kezia Jackson, Psy.D. to hear about a typical day in her life as a clinical psychologist. The short answer? There isn't one.

"And I think that's one of the things I love, not just about being a clinical psychologist, but also about owning my own practice — I have lots of flexibility in what I do," Jackson says.

Portrait of Dr. Kezia Jackson

Dr. Kezia Jackson

Dr. Kezia Jackson is the founder of Healing Spaces Psychological Services LLC, a group practice that provides psychological assessments, individual therapy, couples therapy, and training for parents. She received her Psy.D. in clinical psychology from Loyola University Maryland in 2016 and has since worked in nonprofits and outpatient mental health centers. She is also an adjunct professor of psychology at Ponce Health Sciences University St. Louis.

Daily Tasks and Experiences in Clinical Psychology

When you imagine what makes up the bulk of a clinical psychologist's work, you probably think of therapy. But there are many other tasks involved with the role, especially when working in private practice.

Tests and Assessments

A significant part of a clinical psychologist's job is administering tests and assessments. These tools help psychologists derive insights about patients' underlying issues, make diagnoses, and create treatment plans.

Testing can be administered in written form, on the computer, or orally. Different tests measure different areas, such as a patient's behavior, cognition, or performance.

Assessments are more comprehensive than tests. They can include surveys, observations, interviews, and medical and school records.

Once patients complete the necessary tests and assessments, psychologists interpret the answers, write reports, and make treatment recommendations. Then, they review the results with patients during feedback sessions.

Depending on the patient and type of tests, evaluations may require more than one session and take several hours for psychologists to finalize.

Psychotherapy

The actual time spent in therapy only makes up about half of the work week hours for most private practice owners.

"I might see somewhere between 15 to 18 clients during the week. That might be more typical for a private practice," Dr. Jackson says. "I think that's probably what most of us should be able to handle and seems doable, where we can still show up and be our best selves."

In other environments, such as mental health centers and hospitals, psychologists may see 25-30 patients per week because their time is devoted solely to working with patients.

Depending on patients' needs, Jackson employs different therapy approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), trauma-focused CBT, parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT), and neurosequential model of therapeutics (NMT).

Thanks to the psychology interjurisdictional compact (PSYPACT), which allows participating states to work with clients in different jurisdictions, Jackson is able to see clients in more than 20 states via teletherapy.

Supervising Interns

Many clinical psychologists also host interns at their practices. This is a way to give back to the community and help students gain the necessary experience, but it requires a time investment from supervisors.

A typical psychology internship lasts about one year, which gives students the opportunity to fulfill their state's licensure requirements. Depending on the jurisdiction, students need to accrue about 1,500 to 2,000 internship hours.

Apart from the time the intern works independently, there is usually a minimum number of hours per week or month that the clinical psychologist must provide face-to-face supervision.

During this time, supervisors work with the interns on developing certain skills. This can include research, psychotherapeutic techniques, compliance with legal standards, testing and assessments, and consultation.

"Mondays are our intern's days to see clients and do testing for us. So, I'm here onsite mostly doing administrative work and supporting her and her needs," Jackson says. During face-to-face time, Jackson and her interns talk about cases, processes, and diagnoses.

Supervisors are also responsible for maintaining records of how many clinical training and supervision hours their interns complete.

Administration

Owning a practice also requires a significant amount of time for completing administrative tasks. Some choose to hire an administrative coordinator while others manage business operations themselves.

"Administration and everything that just goes into that is the aspect that is not talked about enough in [grad] school," Dr. Jackson says. "So, a lot of managing the business, the legal side — all of that I do during the week."

Typical tasks in a psychology private practice include keeping records for accounting purposes, liaising with insurance companies, completing payroll for employees, marketing, responding to inquiries from new patients, ordering office supplies, and managing staff.

Continuing Education

The number of continuing education (CE) hours that clinical psychologists must complete to maintain licensure ranges from 20-60 hours every 1-3 years.

"Something to be considered is the time spent continuing your education and learning. I do spend a good amount of time — maybe not every week, but during the month — doing webinars, research, and kind of looking up what's going on in the field of evidence-based practice," Jackson says.

States make their own requirements about how many hours clinical psychologists need to fulfill the requirement and the types of experiences that count as CE.

Other Tasks

Clinical psychologists can shape their career to their interests. So, there is no boilerplate model that clinical psychologists must adhere to.

"I always knew that I didn't just want to do assessment or just therapy. So, being in this space where as a clinical psychologist, I can do assessments and therapy, I can supervise, I can consult, I can do workshops, is really nice. And I think it's exciting," Jackson says.

One clinician might spend all 40 hours of the work week facilitating therapy. Another might spend most of the time conducting research and teaching — only seeing a handful of clients over the course of a month.

"I think one of the beautiful things about having a terminal degree in psychology is having a lot of flexibility and doing what you want to do, whether that be in private practice or finding a job elsewhere," Jackson says.

The table shows how a typical clinical psychologist who owns their own practice might set up their schedule.

Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.: Sees 1-2 clients via teletherapy 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.: Completes administrative tasks

11 a.m. - 1 p.m.: Advises interns

1 - 2 p.m.: Lunch

2 - 5 p.m.: Sees 3 clients
9 a.m. - 1 p.m.: Interprets test results and completes client assessments

1 - 2 p.m.: Lunch

2 - 5 p.m.: Sees 2-3 clients and takes notes
Client focused day

9 a.m. - 12 p.m.: Sees 2-3 clients

12 - 1 p.m.: Lunch

1 - 3 p.m.: Sees 2 clients

3 - 4:30 p.m.: Takes notes, responds to emails
Client focused day

9 a.m. - 12 p.m.: Sees 2-3 clients

12 - 1 p.m.: Lunch

1 - 3 p.m.: Sees 2 clients

3 - 5 p.m.: Takes notes, responds to emails
Half day

9 a.m. - 12 p.m.: Sees 2-3 clients

Takes afternoon off
Day off

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