Psychologist is a generic term that refers to a person who has trained in one of the many fields of psychology. A psychologist is a scientist and/or clinician who studies the human mind and human behavior.

Who is a Psychologist

Psychology is concerned with the study of normal everyday human behavior as much as it is the study of mental health and illness. Psychologists may study how drugs or other chemical agents affect the brain, but generally are not trained to prescribe or administer drugs.

Psychologists are usually categorized into a number of different fields, the most well-recognized being clinical psychologists, who provide mental health care, and research psychologists, who collect, investigate and analyze aspects of human behavior. Clinical Psychology, Educational Psychology, Forensic psychology, and School Psychology are four of the main specialty areas and Board Certification areas in the general field of Psychology.

In the United States and Canada, 'psychologist' is a protected professional title. In this sense, the title of psychologist means that the mental health professional has a masters degree or a doctoral degree (usually a Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed. D.) and has also met state or provincial licensing criteria. Those criteria may include a period of post-degree practice under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, a licensing exam, and continuing education requirements.

Disciplines of Psychology

The following has been adapted from to describe several of the main fields or disciplines of psychology.

Clinical psychologist

A Clinical psychologist and counseling psychologist often works in clinics, counseling centers, hospitals and private practices. They diagnose and evaluate mental and emotional disorders, and use tools such as cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal psychotherapy and hypnosis to treat patients. They conduct interviews and psychological tests, and may conduct complex treatment programs, sometimes in conjunction with physicians or other medical specialists. There are specialties within the field of clinical psychology depending on the focus in clinical medicine, including psychopathology, counseling, neuropsychology, medical psychology, clinical health psychology, and forensic psychology.

Forensic psychologist

Forensic Psychologists are recognized experts in the application of psychological principles to the legal system. Different areas of application include the assessment and treatment of criminal offenders, reporting to courts, working with police, profiling, and advising legal counsel, to name just a few. The majority of forensic psychologists work with offenders, attempting to assess criminogenic needs and identify pathways for their containment.

Medical psychologists

Medical psychologists are specialists in psychological and behavioral aspects of physical illness and have additional advanced training in psychopharmacology, physiology, and rehabilitation. Their clinical tools include assessment in general and specialist medicine (e.g., chronic illness management, pain treatment, brain injury), clinical psychophysiology (e.g. biofeedback), psychotherapy, hypnosis, behavioral medicine, and psychosocial interventions; they are licensed to prescribe medication in certain countries. They tend to work in hospitals and private practice.

Health psychologists

Health psychologists are of two general types: clinical health psychologists (similar to medical psychologists) and community health psychologists (who specialize in psychological and psychosocial aspects of health in the larger community). Clinical health psychologists are oriented to biopsychosocial aspects of physical health and illness and their field overlaps that of behavioral medicine to a large extent. Clinical and community health psychologists work in a number of different roles: clinical diagnosis of problems that relate to physical illness, psychological, psycho physiological, and psychosocial interventions; clinical communication; organizational design in medical care; health promotion; teaching and training; consultancy; giving advice on health policy.

School psychologist

School psychologists work in schools, state departments of education, hospitals, clinics and universities. They are primarily interested in applying psychological knowledge to the resolution of schooling and learning problems. They provide consultation to teachers, administrators, and parents; assessment of students (including assessment of disabilities requiring special education); intervention services; in-service education for staff; family intervention; program evaluation; and research.

Organizational psychologists

Organizational psychologists are concerned with the performance of people at work and in training, with developing an understanding of how organizations function and how individuals and groups behave at work. Their aim is to increase effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction at work.

Research Psychologists

Research psychologists study behavioral processes by experimenting on human beings and animals. They work in universities and private research centers, as well as for government organizations and often contribute to fields including marketing, design, and different forms of drug and chemical research. Common areas of research include perception, memory, motivation, and factors affecting development and behavior.

Professional licensing requirements

Licensed psychologists, in the overwhelming majority of jurisdictions, are required to have obtained academic doctoral degrees (Ph.D.) that are different from the degrees of physicians in that they require not only coursework (i.e., subjects), but also supervised professional training, clinical internship, and significant academic research experience and original contributions to scientific research in the form of a dissertation. In this sense, the Ph.D. in professional psychology is a hybrid academic/professional degree, and university programs in professional psychology are not only academic but also training programs typically characterized by rigor and intensity. Some psychologists have professional degrees in psychology (Psy.D.) that include similarly rigorous coursework, supervised professional training, internship, and developing the ability to read and interpret academic research, but they do not necessarily require original research contributions to science (although many of these professional programs require an academic dissertation or an equivalent project).

Psychology Compared with Psychiatry

Licensed psychologists hold a doctorate in their field. Psychiatrists are physicians who have earned an M.D. or a D.O., whereas licensed psychologists have earned a Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed. D. In addition, each of these two licenses operate under somewhat different legal definitions and restrictions.

A psychiatrist, is a physician who has specialized in mental health and illness. They are trained in the medical approach to disorders and in the use of medications. Many, but not all, psychiatrists are also trained to conduct psychotherapy.

Psychiatrists generally spend short periods of contact time with clients/patients, and the principle line of treatment is via psychoactive drugs. Conversely, psychologists undertake extensive cognitive and behavioral analysis of clients/patients, in order to understand and treat the presenting problem with reference to the many cognitive, behavioral, and social factors that impact upon functioning.

In the United States, both psychologists and psychiatrists can be ‘Board Certified’ as specialists in their field. After the completion of many years of advanced graduate school, an internship or residency is usually required. After completing their training and after having significant field experience, the psychologist or psychiatrist must pass a written and then oral board examination before becoming ‘Board Certified’.

The more you understand about psychological and mental health related problems the better you can cope with them. Reaching out for information and assistance can help you live a healthier and more fulfilling life. People who suffer from psychological and mental health related problems can get help from a mental health professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or clinical social worker.

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