The field of psychology is extremely broad which means there are potentially dozens of different types of psychologists working in the field and potential career paths you can choose from.
Many of the smaller ones we won’t worry about covering here. Instead we’ll focus on a few of the major areas of psychology and the sort of work you might be engaged in if you choose to become that particular kind of psychologist.
You can generally break the field down into two key areas. The first would be the practical where your job requires you to deal with patients and clients.
The other key area of psychology is focused more on training & research, but it can be equally rewarding.
First Type Of Psychologist – Counselors/Clinicians
Clinical psychologists are those folk who dedicate themselves to helping patients deal with a wide range of issues (both medical and mental). This could be things like depression, suicidal tendencies, anger management or addiction and on to things such as bipolar disorder.
The first step of the process for these professionals is making a diagnosis that is as accurate as possible.
Then, based on that diagnosis, they would put work on creating a treatment plan and implementing that in consultation with the patient. This treatment plan will combine various elements from things like psychotherapy, CBT, counseling as well as working with a psychiatrist if there is a need for subscription medication.
A clinical psychologist may choose to specialize in a certain area. This will help them become extremely effective at dealing with that specific problem or population group.
Very broadly there is some overlap in the work done by counseling and clinical psychologists. They are both using their skills and training to help their client or patient.
Where the two differ is generally in the type of person that they are working with.
As we’ve already mentioned, the clinical psychologist is working with patients with mental or medical issues.
A counseling psychologist on the other hand tends to work more closely with people who are focused on making specific improvements to their behaviors, personality, emotions or life in general.
So for example, it could be somebody who feels their lack of confidence is keeping them from progressing in their career as fast as they’d like.
Or it could be a couple who feel their marriage needs some work and a counseling psychologist could be the answer
A school psychologist is generally a counseling psychologists who deals almost exclusively with students at a school. Their job is to work with both teachers and students to better understand how student behavior can be modified to maximize the potential for learning and development of those students.
Sports psychologists work with athletes looking to gain a mental edge in the performance of their particular sport.
You might work as an employee of a professional team or you could work as aconsultant one-on-one with individual athletes who engage your services.
With the money involved n sport these days there is huge pressure to perform. It will be your job to make sure of the mental capacities of your athletes to perform at their best when it counts the most.
The forensic psychologist is required to take what they know about human behavior & psychology, and use it in a legal setting.
One of the common roles of the forensic psychologist is assessing people who have been accused of a crime. It will be your job to assess their mental state and what it might have been at the time the crime was committed. This can have a huge bearing on the charges raised and the verdicts delivered.
The rehab psychologists work closely with people who are coming back from some sort of injury or accident.
Often times with trauma, there is also some mental scarring that is left. Using a rehab psychologist can help you overcome some of those issues, which in turn can help you recover more effectively from the physical injuries as well.
Psychologists Who Work in Teaching or Research
One the the great things about psychology is that if you don’t want to work directly with patients, there are other options available. There are many types of psychologists who focus their efforts on research, teaching and training which might be something you’re more interested in as well.
Areas you can focus on include:
Perceptual or Cognitive Psychologists
The goal for people working in this area of psychology is to gain a better understanding exactly how humans learn as well as what the process is for making decisions.
This type of psychologist will sometimes work in close association with scientists who understand human biology and how it relates to learning, memory, decision making etc.
Originally this area of psychology was focused on understanding how children developed, but as our population ages is now starting to look at the older age end of the spectrum as well.
This field first emerged as psychologists tried to gain a better understanding of the stages of development in children. However an interesting growth in the role for this kind of psychologist has been in understanding what is happening to the aging population in terms of the regression in the mental ability of the older citizen.
The main goal of evolutionary psychology is to try and understand the evolution of the brain and how this affects how we feel, think or act.
Some specific sub-fields of this area include things like social interaction, aggression and mating behaviors.
The social psychologist is trying to gain a better understanding of how human interaction has an impact on different areas of our life such as the formation of opinions or prejudices as well as the relationships we form and maintain with those around us.
They also look at behaviors of people as an individual versus when part of a larger group and how the group dynamic can change or influence those behaviors.
While we haven’t covered all the possible types of psychologists in this article, I’m sure you can see that there is more depth to the field than you might have initially thought.
This is great if a career in psychology is something you’re interested in pursuing. You’re sure to find a specific area of work that will make your job and your life extremely rewarding.