A psychological assistant tests and evaluates patients under the supervision of a licensed professional. The job might entail interviewing new clients to determine the type of psychological treatment needed. In some offices, a psychological assistant might develop treatment plans, oversee limited individual therapy sessions, or lead group therapy. He or she might also work with a patient and family members to address behavioral issues and devise a plan to foster change.
Requirements to work as a psychological assistant vary by area. In some regions, these paraprofessionals might be hired without a college degree, but some college courses are typically needed. Experience gained as a psychological assistant might help a person decide whether to continue course work to become a licensed psychologist. A research psychological assistant typically develops and performs experiments using scientific research methods.
The supervising doctor commonly adheres to strict laws regulating registration and tracking of the assistant’s duties. Psychologists supervising these employees must hold a current license and report the type of work done by a psychological assistant, backed by the employee’s level of education, experience, or training. They usually must report to a licensing board when an assistant is terminated.
In some regions, a licensed psychologist must notify patients that the assistant is not a licensed professional and is permitted to perform limited tasks. Patients might be asked to sign a release to allow a psychological assistant access to confidential medical information. The assistant is typically not permitted to recommend treatment independently and must be supervised during all working hours.
Laws typically prohibit a psychologist from employing a former patient as a psychological assistant, along with family members or business associates. There might also be limits on the number of assistants allowed to work under the supervision of a single doctor. These limits commonly differ for psychologists and psychiatrists.
Skills necessary to work as a psychologist's assistant include good interviewing techniques to determine the type of care a patient needs. The assistant should also be proficient at administering and scoring standard tests used to evaluate a client’s mental and emotional state. He or she should also know the basics of group therapy practices and be able to relate to people with mental disabilities. Recordkeeping is also useful, along with good oral and written communication skills.