The Different Types of Psychologists

While earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, it’s possible to focus on psychology as a whole. However, as you move along in your educational path and work toward a master’s and doctorate degree, you’ll need to focus on a specific area. Knowing the various branches of psychology can help you determine a niche that will fit your personality and career goals.

No matter which branch of psychology you choose to pursue, there are distinct similarities between all psychology professions. Psychologists all share the same interest in studying human behavior and the human mind. They evaluate the physical, emotional, social and cognitive factors of our existence. And while psychology has gained a reputation for being therapeutic, it’s actually an in-depth branch of science that is built on the foundation of laboratory experiments, research and design and statistical findings.

Below are the various types of psychologists and the types of work they perform.

Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologists interview patients, perform diagnostic tests and provide psychotherapy. They work in a variety of work settings such as clinics, counseling centers, hospitals and private or group practices. Clinical psychologists play a large role in the psychological healing of their patients. They often collaborate with other doctors to develop treatment plans and implement behavior modification. The problems they treat range from social disorders to family dysfunction to pain management. Even though the problems they treat are comprehensive, most clinical psychologists deal with severe mental illnesses instead of everyday problems. Some clinical psychologists step away from the direct relationship with the patient and instead teach courses at the college level and administer mental health programs.

Counseling Psychologists

Counseling psychologists are often thought of as generalist psychologists. They have versatile training that spans across basic therapeutic skills and ways to cope with everyday problems and emotions. It is possible for counseling psychologists to specialize in a particular area, but generally these professionals focus on emotional, social, educational, vocational and developmental concerns. Like clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists will perform diagnostic tests, assess the patient and devise a treatment plan. They consult with agencies such as schools or government, and they may also conduct research and teach at the collegiate level. Therapeutic techniques are the basis for counseling psychologists, as these professionals spend much of their time directly working with patients.

School Psychologists

School psychologists are those that work in elementary and secondary schools. They resolve the problems that students have and teach them ways to cope with behavioral problems. School psychologists are the liaison between the student and their support network, so these individuals play a key role in communicating and relaying information to teachers, school staff and parents. School psychologists are familiar with the school setting and evaluate the various programs, services and behavior modification methods to ensure they are meeting the needs of the student. Ultimately, they help children succeed academically, socially and emotionally by strengthening the relationship between the school staff and family.

Developmental Psychologists

Developmental psychologists study human behavior through the various stages of life. These psychologists may specialize in specific areas such as infancy, childhood, adolescence or adulthood. They may also study the effects of aging and how people cope with getting older and handling sickness and death. Generally, development psychologists look at the various parts of life through different angles, including physiological, cognitive and social development. The research gained from developmental psychologists is critical to the understanding of human nature.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

Industrial-organizational psychologists have a different focus than most psychologists: work. They research various methods for improving the workplace, boosting employee morale and increasing productivity. Industrial-organizational psychologists often start working with the management of a particular company to enhance the quality of life at the work setting. They evaluate the current environment, conduct employee training and screenings and organize methods for handling particular problems. Usually, these psychologists are brought in by management to solve specific problems in the workplace.

Social Psychologists

Social psychologists study individuals in a social context. This branch of psychology looks at how people are influenced by the social situation they are in. It often mimics sociology, but instead of focusing on a group at large, social psychology focuses on the individual. Social psychologists evaluate why people act, look and feel the way they do and how stereotypes of formed. They also focus on group behavior, leadership, racism, sexism and attitudes toward others in general. This branch of psychology is complex, but it paves a road into the world of human interaction.

Research Psychologists

Also known as experimental psychologists, research psychologists work in private research centers and teach university courses. They study human behavior using both humans and animals to gain a better understanding for how we think, learn and lead our lives. Focus areas include motivation, attention, memory, sensory and perception. Although research psychologists don’t directly work with patients, the information gathered from their in-depth studies is invaluable to the foundation of psychology.


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