A Day in the Life of a Psychologist

Counseling patients, juggling appointments, and staying on top of clinical research: look over a psychologist’s shoulder as she keeps the balance through a typical day.

Alyssa Rosenthal has been a psychologist for nearly two decades. She started her career in a hospital mental health unit, then opened her own private health practice where she specialized in treating families and children. Now, she is the clinical psychologist manager at an outpatient clinic for abused children.

Rosenthal’s job involves not only counseling and treating patients, but also managing a team of ten psychologists. She handles administrative tasks, collaborates on clinical research projects, and supervises her colleagues’ work.

Psychologists may work in clinics, hospitals, schools, prisons, or corporate locations. No matter what the setting, practicing psychology can be emotionally draining and requires a lot of focus. According to Rosenthal, however, the benefits far outnumber the challenges. “My work makes a difference every day in the lives of damaged children,” Rosenthal says. “I also enjoy helping my colleagues improve their skills and become more effective psychologists.”

Rosenthal provides a basic overview of what a psychologist might encounter in his or her daily schedule:

8:00 a.m. Read through e-mails and reply to important messages. Prepare for an upcoming conference. Go over notes for research project.

8:30 a.m. Conduct assessment meeting with colleagues. Discuss individual patient assessments and decide on treatment plans.

9:30 a.m. Write up reports for patients’ families and referring health providers. Sign off on colleagues’ clinical reports. Complete any other necessary paperwork.

11:00 a.m. Meet with an adolescent patient. Write up case notes following the appointment and refer patient to begin group therapy. Schedule meeting with patient’s parents.

12:00 p.m. Eat lunch outside in the park. Take a few minutes to meditate and unwind so as to be prepared for the rest of the day.

1:00 p.m. Supervise a colleague’s clinical work. Provide written feedback, including observed improvement and further suggestions.

2:00 p.m. Meet with a teenage patient who completed treatment 1 year ago. Write up case notes and take part in a group video conference with the patient’s group therapy leader and case manager.

3:00 p.m. Meet for an initial appointment with a new patient. Complete intake paperwork, process referral and insurance information, and write up case notes after the appointment.

4:00 p.m. Supervise a colleague’s clinical work. As with the 1 p.m. supervision, provide written feedback, including observed improvement and further suggestions. Schedule further supervised meeting to follow up with some specific goals.

5:00 p.m. Complete final paperwork for the day. Complete any administrative tasks, such as scheduling, billing, updating research notes, and ordering office supplies. Catch up on outstanding emails from this morning. Glance over tomorrow’s calendar and make a prioritized to-do list. If any emergency appointments have been booked earlier in the day, make sure that there are no scheduling conflicts. Just before leaving, check in with colleagues and respond to any questions and concerns.

6:15 p.m. Go home.