their knowledge to a wide range of endeavors, including health and human
services, management, education, law, and sports. They usually
specialize in one of a number of different areas.
psychologists -- who
constitute the largest specialty -- are concerned with the assessment,
diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders. While some
clinical psychologists specialize in treating severe psychological
disorders, such as schizophrenia and depression, many others may help
people deal with personal issues, such as divorce or the death of a
loved one. Often times, clinical psychologists provide an opportunity to
talk and think about things that are confusing or worrying, offering
different ways of interpreting and understanding problems and
situations. They are trained to use a variety of approaches aimed at
helping individuals, and the strategies used are generally determined by
the specialty they work in.
often interview patients and give diagnostic tests in their own private
offices. They may provide individual, family, or group psychotherapy and
may design and implement behavior modification programs. Some clinical
psychologists work in hospitals where they collaborate with physicians
and other specialists to develop and implement treatment and
intervention programs that patients can understand and comply with.
Other clinical psychologists work in universities and medical schools,
where they train graduate students in the delivery of mental health and
behavioral medicine services. A few work in physical rehabilitation
settings, treating patients with spinal cord injuries, chronic pain or
illness, stroke, arthritis, or neurological conditions. Others may work
in community mental health centers, crisis counseling services, or drug
rehabilitation centers, offering evaluation, therapy, remediation, and
of specialization within clinical psychology include health psychology,
neuropsychology, geropsychology, and child psychology. Health
psychologists study how biological, psychological, and social factors
affect health and illness. They promote healthy living and disease
prevention through counseling, and they focus on how patients adjust to
illnesses and treatments and view their quality of life.
Neuropsychologists study the relation between the brain and behavior.
They often work in stroke and head injury programs. Geropsychologists
deal with the special problems faced by the elderly. Work may include
helping older persons cope with stresses that are common in late life,
such as loss of loved ones, relocation, medical conditions, and
increased care-giving demands. Clinical psychologists may further
specialize in these fields by focusing their work in a number of niche
areas including mental health, learning disabilities, emotional
disturbances, or substance abuse. The emergence and growth of these, and
other, specialties reflects the increasing participation of
psychologists in direct services to special patient populations.
psychologists consult with other medical personnel regarding the best
treatment for patients, especially treatment that includes medication.
Clinical psychologists generally are not permitted to prescribe
medication to treat patients; only psychiatrists and other medical
doctors may prescribe most medications. However, two States --
Louisiana and New Mexico -- currently allow appropriately trained
clinical psychologists to prescribe medication with some limitations.
Counseling psychologists advise people on how to deal with problems of
everyday living, including problems in the home, place of work, or
community, to help improve their quality of life. They foster well-being
by promoting good mental health and preventing mental, physical, and
social disorders. They work in settings such as university or crisis
counseling centers, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and individual or
School psychologists work with students in early childhood and
elementary and secondary schools. They collaborate with teachers,
parents, and school personnel to create safe, healthy, and supportive
learning environments for all students. School psychologists address
students' learning and behavioral problems, suggest improvements to
classroom management strategies or parenting techniques, and evaluate
students with disabilities and gifted and talented students to help
determine the best way to educate them.
They improve teaching, learning, and socialization strategies based on
their understanding of the psychology of learning environments. They
also may evaluate the effectiveness of academic programs, prevention
programs, behavior management procedures, and other services provided in
the school setting.
Industrial-organizational psychologists apply psychological principles
and research methods to the workplace in the interest of improving
productivity and the quality of worklife. They also are involved in
research on management and marketing problems. They screen, train, and
counsel applicants for jobs, as well as perform organizational
development and analysis. An industrial psychologist might work with
management to reorganize the work setting in order to improve
productivity or quality of life in the workplace. Industrial
psychologists frequently act as consultants, brought in by management to
solve a particular problem.
Developmental psychologists study the physiological, cognitive, and
social development that takes place throughout life. Some specialize in
behavior during infancy, childhood, and adolescence, or changes that
occur during maturity or old age. Developmental psychologists also may
study developmental disabilities and their effects. Increasingly,
research is developing ways to help elderly people remain independent as
long as possible.
Social psychologists examine people's interactions with others and with
the social environment. They work in organizational consultation,
marketing research, systems design, or other applied psychology fields.
Prominent areas of study include group behavior, leadership, attitudes,
or research psychologists
Experimental or research psychologists work in university and private
research centers and in business, nonprofit, and governmental
organizations. They study the behavior of both human beings and animals,
such as rats, monkeys, and pigeons. Prominent areas of study in
experimental research include motivation, thought, attention, learning
and memory, sensory and perceptual processes, effects of substance
abuse, and genetic and neurological factors affecting behavior.
psychologists use psychological principles in the legal and criminal
justice system to help judges, attorneys, and other legal professionals
understand the psychological findings of a particular case. They are
usually designated as an expert witness and typically specialize in one
of three areas: family court, civil court, and criminal court. Forensic
psychologists who work in family court may offer psychotherapy services,
perform child custody evaluations, or investigate reports of child
abuse. Those working in civil courts may assess competency, provide
second opinions, and provide psychotherapy to crime victims. Criminal
court forensic psychologists often conduct evaluations of mental
competency, work with child witnesses, and provide assessment of
juvenile or adult offenders.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.