What Are The Various Types Of Psychology?

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated March 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Psychology is a vast area of study spanning many disciplines. It can co-mingle with other disciplines, such as biology and anthropology, and is often used in the business world, too.

Psychology can be used in a clinical setting, a group setting, a research setting, and more. Because of its many applications, several different niches exist to study the mind and behavior in specific contexts.

Psychologists train to help a wide variety of needs

Clinical psychology

One of the more familiar fields of psychology, the goal of the clinical psychologist is to help diagnose and treat the different mental health conditions that people face, mainly through psychotherapy therapy. However, clinical psychologists can work closely with psychiatrists (those who can prescribe drugs) if they determine that medication is necessary for treatment. 

Clinical psychologists are tasked with conducting psychological assessments, determining a diagnosis, and developing a treatment plan. A clinical psychologist might work with those affected by depression, anxiety, addiction, and even learning disorders, to name a few. Because of the demand for their services, clinical psychologists can be found in different capacities than practice, such as schools and hospitals.

Forensic psychology

A forensic psychologist works with the justice system and can help understand criminal behavior. For example, a forensic psychologist might interview a criminal to analyze the subject's thoughts and behaviors during an event. By doing so, they can learn what their motives might have been and evaluate how much of a potential threat they pose to society. 

These individuals can also help survivors of a crime find closure and even prevent future crimes from occurring. Outside criminal law, forensic psychologists are often involved with family law, such as custody cases. Also, they might be involved in criminal profiling. However, this task is often assigned to law enforcement officers trained to do so.

Neuropsychology

Neuropsychologists are interested in the anatomy and physiological functioning of the brain and nervous system and how it affects one's cognitive abilities and behavior. One of the most frequent issues that neuropsychologists address is head trauma. Whether it's through a car accident or high-contact sports, any brain injury can potentially have profound effects on an individual's thoughts and behavior. 

To examine the cognitive effects, a specialist can perform a neurological assessment to judge the brain's performance in the aftermath of accidents, diseases like Alzheimer's, and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Additionally, a neuropsychologist has advanced tools and can monitor the electrical activity in a patient's brain through means such as electromyogram (EMG) and electroencephalogram (EEG).  

Occupational psychology

Sometimes referred to as an industrial-organizational psychologist, an occupational psychologist is concerned with how humans behave in the workplace. Typically, they are contracted by a business to reform their practices, create a healthier corporate culture, and create a better model for work/life balance for employers and employees. 

Whether it's on an individual level or in a group setting, an occupational psychologist will interview staff, and the information that is retrieved can be used to further the success of an organization and even solve problems for them. For example, this type of psychology can be involved in training programs or seminars designed to improve teamwork or manage stress.

Certain professions are inherently more stressful than others and would benefit from an occupational psychologist. A study involving a British police force found that occupational stress resulted in lower job satisfaction, but coping strategies implemented according to occupational therapy directly improved this. Many companies, especially large corporations, will hire an occupational psychologist to help create a happier and more productive work environment which has a significantly positive effect on profits.

Evolutionary psychology

Evolutionary psychology utilizes ideas from biology, anthropology, and more in practices like evolutionary psychology therapy. An evolutionary psychologist works to understand how the human mind has changed over time under the influence of natural selection. Our ancestors have faced many challenges in the past, and because of this, the brain has adapted in response to these issues. To find explanations for our behavior, these types of psychologists can examine our current traits and look at the past. For instance, the primal need to make friends stems from the need to form alliances for food and increase one's likelihood of finding a mate.

Social psychology

In general, people's behavior tends to change based on whom they are surrounded by, whether we are aware of it or not. Social psychology examines how our brains can change and adapt to various social settings. Certain situations or individuals can greatly alter one's thoughts and behaviors, including one's decision-making skills. Groups are a great example of this, and they can bring out different responses in the individuals within them. 

Some people might become shy and more withdrawn in large groups, while others may become more sociable. Through social psychology, we have learned that such responses can be traced to psychological motivations and aversions, such as having a fear of being judged or the desire to fit in. Public speaking is another well-researched topic in social psychology. As much as 92% of people feel anxiety when faced with a public speaking task

Health psychology

Biological factors like bacteria and viruses aren't the only things that contribute to a person's physical health status- social and cultural issues can also influence a person's well-being. Take stress, for example. Multiple different things, such as work, relationships, finances, bereavement, and more, can cause it. How one copes with stress can significantly negatively or positively affect someone's overall health. 

Behaviors related to psychological coping mechanisms, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use, are also great examples of how certain habits can result in serious health consequences, and a social psychologist might research the risk factors for these kinds of activities.

In addition to examining the relationship between human behavior and wellness, a health psychologist may work with patients to find solutions to their issues. Like clinical psychology, this type of psychology blends the field of psychology with medicine, and professionals from both may find work in the same capacities.

Educational psychology

Educational psychologists are dedicated to the study of learning behaviors. They are commonly found in schools for all ages but are primarily known for working with younger individuals. An educational psychologist may be interested in working with gifted learners and those with learning disabilities. Each has different ways of retaining information, and these types of psychologists will try to understand their learning methods.

In addition, an educational psychologist can help improve a student's learning experiences and better their outcomes in school. Even gifted and talented students who naturally excel in academics, art, or athleticism may still be separated from students in their classes because they require special attention. 

Consumer psychologist

A consumer psychologist studies specific behaviors and buying habits of different types of people, along with what influences them. For example, if people prefer one brand of soft drink over a different one, they want to know why this is the case. Businesses may employ one of these psychologists to learn about these kinds of trends so they can better serve the customer's needs.

Emotions can also influence how and why we buy things, and a consumer psychologist may be interested in behaviors such as retail therapy, which is the act of buying things to cope with the negativity and stresses of life.

Out of all the types of psychology, this is one of the oldest subfields. However, it is also growing, especially with the rise of e-commerce. A consumer psychologist might want to understand why some people prefer to shop online rather than in person or vice-versa. 

Find the right psychologist for you 

If you're interested in finding a psychologist to help in your life, platforms like BetterHelp connect users to thousands of licensed, accredited mental health professionals from a wide range of backgrounds and experience, making it easier to find the specialist you're looking for. With online therapy, you can speak with a therapist from home or anywhere with an internet connection on your own schedule. 

Online therapy is also just as effective as in-person treatment for disorders around depression, anxiety, trauma, and more. 

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Psychologists train to help a wide variety of needs

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Takeaway

Being one of the broadest fields, psychology allows people to branch out and specialize in certain areas that interest them the most. Whether you're attracted to the medical aspect of clinical psychology, or you're fascinated by evolutionary psychology, each subfield has something interesting to offer. If you're interested in speaking to a therapist about your own mental health concerns, BetterHelp is an excellent option. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing a range of life's challenges.
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