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. Rosenthal reads through e-mails and replies to important messages before spending a little time preparing for an upcoming conference. She goes over her notes for the research project she hopes to present.
8:30 a.m. Rosenthal and her colleagues meet to discuss individual patient assessments and decide on treatment plans.
9:30 a.m. After the meeting, Rosenthal writes up reports for patients’ families and referring health providers. She also signs off on her colleagues’ clinical reports, and completes any other necessary paperwork.
11:00 a.m. An adolescent patient comes in for the first appointment of the day. After the appointment, Rosenthal writes up her case notes and prepares a referral for the patient to begin group therapy. She also schedules a meeting with the patient’s parents.
12:00 p.m. Rosenthal steps outside to eat lunch in the park. “I’m so glad we found an office with this bit of nature nearby” she says. “It’s great to take a few minutes to meditate and unwind to prepare for the rest of the day.”
1:00 p.m. Rosenthal returns to the office to supervise a colleague’s clinical work. She takes notes which she can refer to later to provide written feedback, including observed improvement and further suggestions.
2:00 p.m. A teenage patient who completed treatment 1 year ago comes in for a follow-up visit. Rosenthal writes up case notes and takes part in a group video conference with the patient’s group therapy leader and new case manager.
3:00 p.m. A new patient comes in to meet for an initial appointment. Rosenthal has her receptionist help the patient complete intake paperwork, process referral and insurance information, and file her case notes after the appointment.
4:00 p.m. Rosenthal takes another opportunity to supervise a colleague’s clinical work. As before, she takes notes so she can give written feedback. Afterward, she schedules another supervised meeting to follow up with some specific goals.
5:00 p.m. The final paperwork for the day is completed. Rosenthal wraps up any remaining administrative tasks, such as scheduling, billing, updating research notes, and ordering office supplies. She catches up on outstanding e-mails left over from this morning, glances over her calendar, and makes a prioritized to-do list for the next day. If any emergency appointments have been booked earlier in the day, she makes sure that there are no scheduling conflicts. Just before leaving, Rosenthal checks in with her colleagues to discuss their questions and concerns in light of the day’s work.
6:15 p.m. After a fruitful chat, Rosenthal checks out and goes home.