It is essential to know what psychology is all about if you are considering a career in the profession. There is a lot of confusion surrounding psychology, partly due to the fact that there are competing areas of explanations on understanding behavior. The American Psychological Association has defined psychology as “the scientific study of the behavior of individuals and their mental processes.” In addition, the field of psychology is often confused with the field of psychiatry. Psychiatrists have medical degrees, and the profession is based around mental illness. Psychology has a broader function that is not solely linked to mental disorders.
Within the study of psychology, there are a core set of topics that every student studies. These topics include the following:
- Abnormal psychology looks at abnormal behavior, the nature and long-term effects of stress, anxiety disorders, the psychological factors of physical illness, personality disorders, substance abuse, sexual and mood disorders, schizophrenia, organic mental disorders, childhood behavior disorders, and various types of psychotherapies.
- Biological psychology is the study of genetics and the evolution and physiology of the nervous system. It is here the student studies the behaviors of animals.
- Cognitive psychology is involved with the internal processing of the environment, which includes attention, problem solving, language, memory, learning, perception, and reasoning and thinking.
- Developmental psychology explains how a person’s thought process, reasoning, and functioning changes over time due to biological, individual, and environmental factors.
Now, within the profession of psychology, there are distinct career paths a person may pursue. These areas of psychology are clinical, counseling, educational, forensic, health, occupational, and sports. Each specialty area has its own educational and training requirements. The field of clinical counseling is what most people are familiar with. It deals with all aspects of human functioning across a person’s lifetime. Students learn about the intellectual, emotional, biological, social, and psychological aspects of personal development. The professional is trained on how to understand, predict, and help people adjust to changes in their well-being. The clinical psychologist may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, government agencies, the military, or private practice. To practice as a clinical psychologist, the individual needs to earn a doctorate from an accredited program and have a state license to practice. According to Payscale.com, the clinical psychology salary range can be up to $124,000 a year, not including bonuses. Counseling psychology is the second-most studied area, which is the general practice of personal and interpersonal functioning. Counseling therapy applies to the human experience as it relates to families, groups, organizations, and systems. The counseling psychology salary range can be up to $95,000 a year.
Other academic areas of psychology that have major impacts and significance on our society are the areas of child psychology, political psychology, military psychology, prison psychology, and evolutionary psychology. Less common is the area of space exploration psychology, which investigates the psychological issues astronauts face during space travel, especially during long missions. Music psychology, or musicology, is another area unfamiliar to most, which explores the effect music has on individual and group behaviors and the skills and processes involved in learning an instrument. A music psychologist seeks to understand why humans spend time and money on music. The field of positive psychology helps to understand how individuals thrive through positive thoughts and appreciation. It is the scientific study of how happiness, satisfaction, optimism, forgiveness, and spirituality affect a person’s well-being.
In addition, the clinical psychologist must be sensitive toward people’s needs and interested to understand how a person thinks and behaves. A compassionate therapist earns the trust of his or her client. Good communication skills are essential to be able to thoughtfully choose the right words. Essentially, the clinical psychologist is a leader to inspire and guide the patient through the clinical process.