Date of Award

Winter 2000

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

Louis H. Janda

Committee Member

Robin J. Lewis

Committee Member

Janis Sanchez


There is a myriad of job titles that exist within the mental health profession. Public perception about the differences between these professionals has been the focus of many studies and the results generally suggest that the public cannot clearly distinguish among these mental heath professionals. The present study is also concerned with perceptions about the various mental health professionals, in particular, perceptions of clinical psychologists relative to other professionals in this field. Undergraduate psychology students age 18–47 participated in a study of perceptions and attitudes about the qualifications and competence of clinical psychologists, professional counselors, psychiatrists and clinical social workers. Participants were randomly assigned to two groups: an education group, which received educational information regarding professional requirements and typical roles and functions, and a non-education group, which received a case study dealing with psychopathology, but no information about the four professionals. All participants were then asked to rate the professionals' level of training and level of competence to treat six problem-types. Results indicated that in general, clinical psychologists were viewed relatively competent and effective and similar to psychiatrists and significantly different from professional counselors and clinical social workers to treat the various problem-types. However, psychiatrists were rated as having had significantly more training than clinical psychologists, professional counselors and clinical social workers. Also, the two groups of participants did not differ significantly in their ratings for clinical psychologists, therefore suggesting that the educational information did not have a significant effect on perceptions about these professionals. It is suggested that perhaps participants rated the professionals based on their preconceptions rather than the information that was provided to them. Suggestions for further investigations are discussed.