Psychologists constantly strive for a better understanding of the mind and how to use this knowledge to help clients. Their efforts have led to the development of various fields of psychology, each one dedicated to delivering the best service to clients and society in general.
We'll take an in-depth look at several of the different types of psychology and how they each cater to clients' needs. We'll put things in perspective first, though, with some background information on what psychology is and how it developed.
Once you are done the reading, you will have a better idea as to which area of psychology is best suited to your mental health needs.
The term "psychology" is derived from the Greek words "psyche" meaning "breath, mind, soul, or principle of life" and "logos" meaning "word or reason." This is brought out in the simple definition of psychology given by the American Psychological Association (APA):
"Psychology is the study of mind and behavior."
The APA elaborates on this definition by revealing that psychology is concerned with "all aspects of the human experience" and that "the understanding of behavior" is the main focus of a psychologist.
As a field of study, psychology tries to understand the various factors which influence behavior. It does this by examining the relationship between behavior and mental processes such as reasoning, learning, thoughts, emotions, and motivation.
Psychology is a broad and multifaceted academic discipline with several schools of thought which are further sub-divided into many more different types of psychology. Regardless of what form it takes, when put into practice the goals of psychology are to:
The nature of the mind has fascinated thinkers throughout history, and there is a wealth of evidence showing that ancient civilizations tried to understand the connection between brain, mind, and behavior. These early musings, such as those of the Greek intellectuals Thales, Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras, fell under the banner of philosophy and helped to lay the foundation of what would later become known as Modern Psychology.
Psychology continued to be considered as a branch of philosophy well into the 1800s. The emergence of psychology as a separate body of knowledge began when its earliest advocates started to rely on the use of scientific methodologies to support their arguments and theories on the mind and behavior.
Wilhelm Wundt of Germany was among the first of these psychologists, and he is credited with being the very first person to call himself a psychologist. Apart from Wundt, who is known for his contributions to both experimental psychology and cultural psychology, other academics who helped to lay the foundations of Modern Psychology include:
William James-An American philosopher and psychologist, known as the founder of functionalism and as one of the leaders in the development of pragmatism.
Edward B. Titchener-An English psychologist and one of Wundt's followers, known for his work in experimental psychology and for creating the structuralism theory of consciousness.
Hermann Ebbinghaus-A German psychologist known for his early experiments in rote learning and memory; his discovery of the forgetting curve; and his description of the learning curve.
Ivan Pavlov-A Russian physiologist known as the founder of modern behavior therapy and for his experiments in the conditioned reflex.
Sigmund Freud - An Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, noted for his studies of the unconscious mind.
John B. Watson-An American psychologist known as the father of behaviorism and for his controversial classical conditioning experiment titled Little Albert.
The current diverse types of psychology have grown out of the work of these scientists and many others like them who have made their own contributions to the development of psychology.
Cognitive psychology is the study of how the human brain processes information.It looks at how information is gathered, processed and recalled.Some of the processes considered under cognitive psychology are:
Other areas of science that are closely related to cognitive psychology include linguistics, philosophy, and neuroscience (or brain science). In fact, the APA lists Brain Science and Cognitive Psychology as one area of psychology and defines it as the "study (of) how the human mind thinks, remembers and learns." It also points out that the work of the cognitive psychologist can involve looking at the associations between "cognition and emotion."
While the field of cognitive psychology is largely research-oriented, many cognitive psychologists work in public and private practice assisting clients and patients.
Examples of practical situations in which the theories of cognitive psychology can be applied include:
Sport And Performance Psychology
While it is often associated with athletics, sport and performance psychology deals with helping persons to achieve their goals not just in athletic activities but in other areas such as business, the performing arts, the military,and political life. It is perhaps for this reason that it is sometimes referred to simply as performance psychology.
The APA mentions "mental toughness and the ability to persevere during a high-stakes situation" as areas of focus for the sport and performance psychologist. This is because the field is particularly concerned with performance under pressure, especially when that performance includes physical, emotional and mental stress.
In general, sport and performance psychologists work with clients to help them find ways of coping with or overcoming problems that hinder their performance in any way. This means that their service is also useful to just about anyone seeking to become better at the things that they do.
Approaches which the sport and performance psychologist might use include:
Generally speaking, neuropsychology is a combination of both neurology and psychology. More precisely, it combines cognitive psychology and brain physiology to study how neurological disorders (disorders of the nervous system) affect behavior. In other words, neuropsychology is concerned with how brain disorders lead to mental disorders.
Neuropsychologists study the brain's structures and their functions with a particular interest in how these relate to behavior and cognitive function. As such, the neuropsychologist may be called upon to treat patients with a wide range of conditions, including:
The following is a list of some of the assessments and tests which neuropsychologists use to help them identify brain disorders.
Assessment, treatment, and research are the three most important aspects of clinical psychology. The field is primarily focused on the practical applications of research findings and methodologies in helping patients with mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
The clinical psychologist conducts a psychological assessment of the client, using a range of methods to diagnose disorders. These include:
The APA points out that some clinical psychologists choose to work with specific disorders such as addiction or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Others elect to work with specific psychological issues such as work-related stress or relationship problems. Clinical psychologists may also choose to work exclusively with a particular demographic, such as with youth or with older people.
Regardless of how they specialize, there is a high demand for clinical psychologists, and they find employment in a wide range of settings, including private practice, hospitals, businesses, schools, mental health facilities, the military and with the government.
Clinical psychology is closely related to school psychology and counseling psychology. One distinction is that there are a few states which have begun to allow clinical psychologists to prescribe medication as long as they have attained specific levels of training and certification.
Counseling psychologists "help patients deal with and understand problems, including issues at home, at the workplace, or in their community." That's according to the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)which gives a combined total of over 108, 000 for the number of counseling, clinical and school psychologists in the U.S.
Counseling psychology focuses on helping clients to identify their assets and strengths and to use these to their advantage when faced with challenges at the various stages of life. Counseling psychologists take into consideration how people interact with each other; the client's social environments (family, school, community, work); and all other internal and external factors which influence a person's behavior, such as gender, sexual orientation, and mental state.
Counseling psychologists work with clients one-on-one, as well as with couples and families. Their work is often compared to that of the clinical psychologist, but there are some noticeable differences. For instance, the clinical psychologist is more research-based and is more likely to treat a wide variety of acute mental disorders. The counseling psychologist, on the other hand, is more likely to assist clients with
The field of psychology is very dynamic and so new areas of focus come about on a regular basis. For instance, the British Psychological Society (BPS) includes cyberpsychology (also known as web psychology and internet psychology) as one of the emerging fields within psychology.
Cyberpsychology involves the study of psychological phenomena related to the use of the internet and all other forms of technology. The field includes the rapidly developing area of online counseling, where clients can conveniently connect with a therapist via the internet. Furthermore, while much emphasis is placed on social media, other activities such as online shopping and gaming and their effect on behavior are also considered in Cyberpsychology.
In describing cyberpsychology, the BPS points to "the increasing presence and usage of technology in our lives." This has led to a range of negative effects which are studied and treated by the cyberpsychologist and may include:
Cyberpsychology research is also ongoing into positive effects, such as a greater sense of community, which can be derived from internet use. Thus, apart from providing therapy for the negative effects of technology use, cyberpsychologists also strive to help clients use technology in such a way that they gain the psychological benefits it offers.
Industrial And Organizational (I/O) Psychology
I/O psychology emerged as a separate field of psychology in the early 1900s. It applies theories and methodologies from several other areas of psychology to organizational settings. The APA defines I/O psychology as "the scientific study of human behavior in the workplace." It goes on to describe the function of I/O psychologists as to "study and assesses individual, group and organizational dynamics in the workplace."
I/O psychologists can assist businesses with a range of employee-related services, including:
Another of their functions is providing insight into consumer preferences as well as customer satisfaction with goods and services offered. Also, the I/O specialist can assist businesses in developing their marketing strategies.
The field of educational psychology involves the study of the emotional, social and cognitive aspects of the learning process. It also looks at how psychological issues affect student education, as well as how motivation techniques; behavior modification through conditioning; and knowledge of student-aptitude can improve outcomes for students.
Educational psychology relies on a wide variety of instruments, tests, and assessments to gauge students' cognitive development. While most of these are designed for use with students up to the high school level, there has been a recent focus on the use of educational psychology theories for the benefit of college students, as well. Furthermore, the rise in the number of persons taking up adult education opportunities has led to a push for educational psychology to take their learning into consideration, too.
Educational psychology is often associated with the applied field of school psychology. That field is more concerned with problems that arise in schools and interventions to promote constructive behavior among all persons within the school. However, educational psychology is categorized both as research and applied to a field of psychology. In practice, it includes:
Developmental psychology studies the changes which take place in humans throughout their lifetime. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as life-span psychology. It seeks not only to identify the changes but also to understand why they happen and the factors which affect them.
Developmental psychologists study the broad categories of physical, social, emotional, cognitive, personality, perceptual, and intellectual change. These can be narrowed to include:
Forensic psychology involves the use of the theories and practices of psychology within the legal system. This is often seen in situations where forensic psychologists are called upon to give expert witness testimony in court cases. The field is much wider than this, however, as it also encompasses the effort to understand why persons commit crimes, display aggression, and engage in socially deviant behaviors.
Apart from private practice, forensic psychologists can be found working in prisons, law firms, rehabilitation centers, and police departments, among other settings. They are often required to work directly with lawyers, law enforcement officials, victims, accused and convicted persons, as well as the families of victims and offenders.
Services they might provide include:
One of the requirements to be certified as a forensic psychologist is having earned a doctoral degree in the field. There may be cases, however, where different types of psychologists find that their work overlaps with that of the forensic psychologist. For instance, another psychologist can be called upon to testify in cases where their expertise in a particular area is required.
Other Types Of Psychology
What we have looked at so far is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are many other subfields within psychology. The number of different types of psychology is constantly increasing with each new area of research into how the mind works. A few other types of psychology worth noting here are:
Therapy is no longer thought of as something which should be reserved for persons with serious mental illness. Instead, more and more persons have come to acknowledge that looking after your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Many people now seek out the services of a psychologist for help with understanding themselves and others better; coping with the routines of daily life, and as a way to improve their overall well-being.
A service like BetterHelp can assist you with reaching whatever kind of psychologist you feel best matches your mental health needs. So, whether you are simply looking for a listening ear or have a deeper mental health concern, don't hesitate to get in touch with them today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are the 4 types of psychology?
Psychology is the study of the intricacies of the mind and its mechanism as it applies to human behavior. The four main types include;
Clinical Psychology is primarily centered around providing quality health care to patients experiencing mental illness.
Cognitive psychology is the only branch of psychology that has its sole focus on the nature of internal mental processes. It comprises of how people reason, learn and recall.
These psychologists study areas like memory, emotions, perception, personality traits, and motivations.
Cognitive psychologists concentrate on the thought process and how people’s brain acquire, process, and retain information.
Counseling Psychology covers the management of patients living with emotional strain. A counseling psychologist is ideal for people experiencing stressful moments due to one aspect of their life or another.
Unlike Clinical psychologists, they don’t work with patients living with a mental illness. Counseling psychologists simply help patients improve their overall well-being. Also, they differ from military psychologists because they don’t require any special physical training to manage their patients effectively.
Social psychology is another important field that involves studying a given population's collective mental processes and their interaction. Social psychologists focus their study on the nature of group behaviors, conformity, and social perception, amongst others.
What are the 7 types of psychology?
The different types of psychology are numerous, to say the least, 7 of which include;
How many types of psychologists are there?
There are about 16 different types of psychologists, namely;
Clinical psychologists specialize in direct contact with patients to diagnose and treat people living with mental illness. This type of psychologist works in outpatient clinics, hospitals, private offices, government facilities. The licensing standard requirements for clinical psychologists vary by state.
Forensic psychologists operate in the criminal justice system. Their primary purpose is to aid legal professionals to comprehend the psychological basis of a case. This way, the court gets to gain an expert opinion on the defendant's mental health as they stand trial.
Unlike organizational psychologists, forensic psychologists must have an authentic doctoral degree to gain access to take the American Board of Forensic Psychology certification procedure needed for a practice license. S such psychologists study to carry out schools threat assessment, evaluation of defendant’s competency, amongst others. Their practice is essential to the legal practice.
Military psychologists are mostly functional with patients who are in the armed forces. Of all the types of psychologists, they are required to attain additional training that equips them to work with highly-trained military personnel effectively.
These psychologists study ways to effectively manage conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Substance Abuse, and Traumatic Brain Injury, amongst others. The main focus of all military psychologists is the mental health of members of the armed forces (current and retired) and their families.
Child Psychologists work closely with children and adolescents. A doctoral degree and prior experience with children and adolescents are required to be qualified for this practice. The American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology are responsible for the certification process that grant license.
Industrial-Organizational Psychologists function quite differently from the other types of psychologists. They operate in the workplace to ensure employee’s productivity and efficiency. People who studied organizational psychology must have a master’s degree to practice. Although they are different from cross cultural psychologists, they require similar knowledge to be effective.
Educational Psychologists study the factors that play a role in the human learning process. They focus mainly on effective methods to aid learning and retention in different individuals.
Similar to development psychologists, educational psychologists apply age-based knowledge to further understand the elements that impact how a person absorbs and processes information.
Other types of psychologists include;
What are the 3 branches of psychology?
The branches of psychology are many, but the 3 primary ones are;
Is Psychology hard to study?
Due to the cumbersome coursework, lectures, and exams a person will experience when studying psychology, this course can be considered challenging but not impossible. Studies show that migraine headaches are more common in psychology students than in those studying medicine.
These psychology students also complained that their symptoms increased in severity since admission. This is just to reiterate that studying an intricate field like psychology is not for the faint-hearted. All that’s needed is resilience, as research shows that this leads to a fall in psychological stress. Certified psychologists should be held in high esteem due to the effort they are required to expend during their years of study and practice.
Can a psychologist have tattoos?
Yes, there is nothing wrong with a psychologist opting to get a tattoo. This form of body marking ordinarily does not affect the competence, qualification, and mental processes of a psychologist.
Although tattoos are relatively popular in modern society, recent studies still highlight the stigma associated with their presence and a reduced credibility rating. Another research indicates a high margin for error, making further investigation necessary.
Nevertheless, it is essential that all clinical psychologists recognize the possibility that socio-economic and cross cultural factors can play a role in how their tattoos are perceived by patients, which can have an unpredictable impact on interpersonal relationships.
Which branch of psychology is the best?
Most people consider clinical psychology to be at the top of the list because it applies all other aspects of psychology in improving the mental health of patients. These psychologists focus solely on the management of patients living with behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders.
Also, developmental psychology explores the growth process over a lifetime and provides knowledge that allows a better understanding of ways to increase the quality of life in different age groups.
Other less popular ones, like industrial organizational psychologists, also play a vital role in employee’s mental health and productivity.
What is the highest paid psychologist?
The highest-paid psychologists are clinical psychiatrists. This is no surprise, thanks to the extensive list of requirements to qualify for this career. Psychologists often work with patients without being able to prescribe, but psychiatrists lack this restriction since they are also practicing medical doctors. Qualified psychologists also have the option of applying to work with the American Psychological Association; the largest organization dedicated to the furtherance of psychology and mental health.
What is the best type of psychologist?
Although, Clinical psychiatrists are licensed to manage mental illness and prescribe medications, the best type of psychologist to improve your mental health depends on what aspect you need help with.
While health psychologists and social psychologists focus on the effects social factors have on mental health, they generally cannot prescribe medications.
What do psychologists make annually?
As of 2020, clinical psychologists with minimal experience can expect to make about $21 - $28 per hour, which adds up to an annual salary of about $44,000 - $58,000. Similar to other professions, this figure increases with experience and specialization.
How long is a psychology degree?
Psychologists study for about 4 – 5 in college to earn an undergraduate degree. However, to become a clinical psychologist, an additional 4 – 7 years is required to earn a doctorate degree. So, the amount of time it takes to study psychology depends on the qualification level you aim for and your desired career path.
Who is the father of psychology?
The renowned Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt (1832 - 1920) is widely known as the father of modern psychology. He earned this title due to his significant contributions to the field of psychology. He was a German professor, physiologist, and exceptional philosopher who was the first person to call himself a psychologist and further established a distinction between psychology and other sciences. A peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychological Association, known as ‘American Psychologist,’ ranked Wundt’s reputation number one for “all-time eminence.”
What are the six major psychological theories?
These major psychological theories were designed to model a structure that aids comprehension of human behaviors, emotions, and thought processes. Psychologists study these theories to understand the history and evolution of psychology, as well as predict the progression of this field in the future. The earliest theories like psychoanalysis theory discovered by Sigmund Freud and Eric Erickson have largely been replaced by newer, more plausible ones. Earlier theories are not being discarded but serve as a foundation for more applicable theories.
Is Psychology a good career?
Psychology is a sustainable career choice for most people. One unique advantage of getting a degree in psychology is the freedom to choose from a wide variety of career paths.
Most psychologists focus on an area of specialty that best suits their interest, making their practice a fulfilling one. Although it has its upside, psychology isn’t suitable for everyone as it requires a unique cognitive capacity. Having a passion for this field may help alleviate the stress of pursuing a career.
What are the 5 fields of psychology?
Psychology studies the mechanism of the mind and human behavior. Five of the branches of psychology include;
Developmental Psychology, as the name suggests, focuses on how an individual or a population develops all through life. Although these psychologists differ from social psychologists, they specialize in studying mental processes associated with all age groups (infant to elderly).
Cross cultural psychology is concerned with the effects of cultural factors on human behavior. Psychologists study the various cross cultural components that impact human behavior. Such knowledge allows optimal and personalized management of patients. Two people may be living with a mental disorder but will require different treatments based on their cultural variance.
Comparative Psychology is unlike most other branches of psychology in that it studies animal behaviors rather than human behavior. This exploration of animals provides an avenue to understand human psychology.
Experimental Psychology employs the use of scientific research and methods to study the brain, mental processes, and behavior. These psychologists often work in research centers, educational facilities, government, and privately owned businesses, amongst others but should not be mistaken for cognitive psychologists. They are not restricted to the labs as some experimental psychologists carry out studies through surveys to improve mental health.
Cognitive Psychology has its centre on the mechanism of internal mental states. Of all the different types of psychology, it uses a comprehensive information-processing model to illustrate how the mind functions.