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What is Clinical Therapy?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Clinical therapy does not have one unique definition. It can refer to any practice with patients that has a therapeutic element and is a treatment aimed at lessening or curing a disease or improving health. Therapies can be physical, psychological, or pharmaceutical and provided the therapy relates to direct work with patients, it’s considered clinical.

The context in which the term clinical therapy might most be used is in psychological therapy or counseling. Psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and licensed clinical social workers are all said to be practicing a clinical form of therapy when they work with patients. Actually the studies that teach these specialists their work and how to work with patients are a part of the knowledge that makes up their clinical practice. It’s a combination of actual practice and understanding how to proceed with work that defines clinical.

This matter is further complicated by the fact that therapists may enter the workforce with different orientations in psychology. Not all practicing therapists believe in the same therapeutic treatments or methods. This means that clinical therapy undertaken with various counselors can mean quite different types of treatment, psychoanalytic versus cognitive behavioral, for example. However, there is some agreed upon types of knowledge, like what the illnesses are that might affect the human mind, even if treatment for these illness is different.

Mental health treatment is only one example of clinical forms of therapy. In the British National Health Service, the term tends to apply to occupational, speech and physical therapy. Diet counseling and any other services that tend toward rehabilitating the body after injury could be considered the practice of clinical therapy. Truly in most settings, any form of therapy being pursued with patients, is thus clinical

One example that suggests the broad range of this term is pharmacology or drug therapy. In clinical drug therapy, doctors or others use their pharmacological knowledge directly as it applies to patients, in order to cure or remediate illnesses or conditions. Such therapy might be very short in duration: for instance, taking three days worth of Zithromax® to treat an infection. Others may need lifelong treatment with medications and part of this treatment will be occasionally assessing how well medications are working and whether there exists any problems with longterm use. Studies on drugs inform how they are used in clinical settings.

In most cases, clinical therapy or clinical therapist could apply to the practice of mental health counseling or counselors. Yet the term is very broad, and can be used in many different settings. It’s perhaps easiest to understand the definition when thinking of the term as patient directed and related to the care of patients, in virtually any medical or allied health environment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By icecream17 — On Feb 11, 2011

Sunny27 - I know what you mean the S and the TH get confused all of the time with kids that have articulation issues.

For example the word is scissors will be pronounce as the word thissors because the child will protrude the tongue slightly outward instead of keeping their teeth clench which is the proper form for the S sound.

Most children master this sound by age nine. I know that many young kids go to speech therapy but some really don’t need it.

A 5 year old for example, is really young and will need a bit more time in order to fully pronounce the sounds correctly. This had more to do with their muscles in their mouth developing than anything else.

Now a child that stutters or has trouble even speaking is a different story.

By Sunny27 — On Feb 09, 2011

SurfNTurf- I have heard of Care One. They also offer speech therapy and have onsite nurses twenty four hours a day and the patient’s are assigned a doctor who is on call.

I wanted to add that I know that speech therapy is expensive and unlike a hip replacement it is usually not covered by insurance.

When my daughter needed speech therapy at age 5, I was told that this form of therapy is not necessary and this is why the child is not covered.

I had to pay out of pocket and it was expensive. The therapist was charging me $75 for a half a hour twice a week. I know that if your child goes to public school they do offer evaluations and therapy as well, but my child did not go to public school.

The therapy was really teaching my daughter how to develop the muscles in her mouth to make the right sounds. It also corrected her articulation issues by properly forming the S and TH.

By surfNturf — On Feb 08, 2011

Subway11 - I remember that. I also have to say that physical therapy and occupational therapy are also another very common forms of therapy.

For example, if an elderly patient suffers from a hip fracture and needs hip replacement surgery they will also need physical and occupational therapy soon after.

Usually the patient would be moved to an acute care facility or a rehabilitative center so that they could receive physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Usually for a hip replacement most patients can spend anywhere from two to four weeks in rehab. They receive daily therapy often twice per day so that they can eventually leave the center.

They are offered occupational therapy as well that might include getting in and out of the car if they drive, walking in the mall, or learning how to cook for themselves if they live alone.

In most of these centers Medicare pays for the first twenty days at 100%, after that they only pay 80% of the claim until the patient reaches 100 days.

After the 100 days, Medicare no longer reimburses. A center like Care One might run about $135 a day at the 80% reimbursement rate, and about $450 a day for long term care. If a senior has secondary insurance like AARP they will usually pick up the remaining 20% if the patient needs to stay the full 100 days.

By subway11 — On Feb 07, 2011

I know that clinical trials are also clinical assessments that allow a patient to take on experimental treatments in order to prolong their life.

Many of these patients are facing terminal illnesses and consider a research clinical in order to try new drugs that are in the testing phase.

The National Institute of Health and the National Cancer Institute offer reputable studies for those looking into clinical trials.

It was reported that Farrah Fawcett participated in experimental clinical trials in Germany for the treatment of her rectal cancer.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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