Psychology and Specializations

Many people interested in psychology tend to wonder what possible pathways does the discipline offer in terms of careers. Well, a lot!

Psychology is understood as the study of mental processes (brain processes, thinking, affective states) and behaviour. A degree in psychology already gives one a scientific mindset and equips one to understand basic principles of human thinking and behaviour. With such a set of competencies, such a person can do well in teaching, sales, marketing health services, business, helping professions, law and many other fields.

If you decide to specialize, you will find so many fascinating routes whether you want to do a master’s or a PhD. In this article, you will find a number of such possible specializations.

COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGISTS

They deal with the general population where they mainly assist people to competently deal with life transitions or help them to make some necessary changes in their life. They usually do not deal with people with severe psychopathology. They provide assessments to individuals and groups and also offer therapy, a service they are majorly known for. In their service, they help individuals and groups to focus and develop their own strengths and to use those strengths, skills and abilities to solve their own problems and cope properly.

Counselling psychologists work in universities as lecturers or counsellors, hospitals, community health centres, business or even open their own private practice adhering to the regulations of the country such as a proper license. In Kenya, proper state regulations are still in the works which have permitted too many unqualified “counselling psychologists” to operate to the detriment of many.

CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGISTS

Unlike counselling psychologists, clinical psychologists treat a wide range of disorders or specialize in specific ones. They might also engage in teaching, research, assessment and general consultation. They may promote health and wellbeing through workshops and lectures on psychological topics.

Clinical psychologists work in a variety of settings, including private practice, mental health service organizations, schools, universities, industries, legal systems, medical systems, counselling centres, government agencies, and military services. Whereas you can practice Clinical Psychology with a masters in Kenya, American Psychological Association (APA), which is quite influential in the discipline of psychology globally, generally requires that clinical psychologists hold a doctorate degree. Nonetheless, you will need a government license to practice legally.

INDUSTRIAL-ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGISTS

This group of psychologists study the relationship between people and the environments that they work in. They may develop new ways to increase productivity, improve personnel selection and placement, or promote job satisfaction in a business or an organizational setting. Their interests include organizational structure and change, consumer behaviour, and personnel selection and training. An organizational psychologist might conduct workplace training or provide organizational analysis and development. They work in the government, business, industries, or in academic settings. Others chose to set up consultancy or work for a consulting firm.

DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGISTS

They conduct research in age-related behavioural changes and apply their scientific knowledge to educational, child-care, policy, and related settings. They investigate change across a broad range of topics, including the biological, psychological, cognitive, and social aspects of development. Developmental psychology informs a number of applied fields, including educational psychology, school psychology, child psychopathology, and gerontology (the study of the aged). The field also informs public policy in areas such as education and child-care reform, maternal and child health, and attachment and adoption. Most developmental psychologists specialize in a specific stage of the life span, such as infancy, childhood, adolescence, or middle or late adulthood and work in educational institutions, day-care centres, senior and youth programs.

EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGISTS.

Their main interest is the psychological processes that are involved in learning. Similar to organizational psychologists, EP study the relationship between learning the social and physical environments and develop strategies for improving or enhancing the process of learning. Obviously, they mostly work in academic settings conducting research on topics related to learning or learning enhancement. They might develop tests of aptitude and achievement among others. They may also work for the government especially in the department/ministry of education.

SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS

They do assessment and interventions for children in educational settings. Sometimes, children may have cognitive, social, and emotional problems that may negatively influence their learning. SP diagnose and treat such problems and help children with their overall functioning at school. They collaborate with the school administration, teachers and parents to make informed recommendations that can improve a student’s learning. They obviously work in academic settings, children centres and may also work for the government in the education ministry.

FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGISTS

They conduct research on the meeting point between law and psychology. They help to create public policies related to mental health and help law enforcement agencies in a criminal investigation by providing a possible profile of the suspects. They also provide assessments to assist the legal community. Although most forensic psychologists are clinical psychologists, they might have expertise in other areas of psychology, such as social or cognitive psychology. Some also hold law degrees. FP work mainly with the Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI) or other law enforcement agencies, law school, academic settings, research, community mental health, court and correctional and rehabilitation settings.

HEALTH PSYCHOLOGISTS

These are researchers and practitioners concerned with psychology’s contribution to promoting health and preventing disease. As applied psychologists or clinicians, they may help individuals lead healthier lives by designing, conducting, and evaluating programs to stop smoking, lose weight, improve sleep, manage pain, prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, or treat psychosocial problems associated with chronic and terminal illnesses. As researchers and clinicians, they identify conditions and practices associated with health and illness to help create effective interventions. In public service, health psychologists study and work to improve government policies and health care systems. They work in hospitals, medical schools, public health agencies, academic settings, rehabilitation centres and also in private practice.

SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGISTS

They focus on people’s interactions with others. Social psychologists study how our beliefs, feelings, and behaviours are affected by and influence other people. They study topics such as attitudes, aggression, prejudice, interpersonal attraction, group behaviour, and leadership. They work in academic settings, market research, social neuroscience research, consultation in organizations, hospitals and businesses.

COMMUNITY PSYCHOLOGISTS.

They deal with broad problems of mental health in community settings. These psychologists believe that human behaviour is powerfully influenced by the interaction between people and their physical, social, political, and economic environments. They seek to promote psychological health by enhancing environmental settings, focusing on preventive measures and crisis intervention, with special attention to the problems of underserved groups and minorities. Given the shared emphasis on prevention, some community psychologists collaborate with professionals in other areas, such as public health. They work in national, county and local governments’ departments of mental health, corrections, research organizations, evaluation of health service settings, independent consultancy and academic settings as teachers.

NEUROPSYCHOLOGISTS

They investigate the relationship between neurological processes (structure and function of the brain) and behaviour. They may assess, diagnose, or treat central nervous system disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease or stroke. They might also evaluate individuals for evidence of head injuries; learning and developmental disabilities, such as autism; and other psychiatric disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Clinical neuropsychologists might work in a hospital’s neurology, neurosurgery, or psychiatric unit. Neuropsychologists also work in academic settings, where they conduct research and teach.

COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGISTS

They study thought processes and focus on such topics as perception, language, attention, problem-solving, memory, judgment and decision making, forgetting, and intelligence. Research interests include designing computer-based models of thought processes and identifying biological correlates of cognition. Cognitive psychologists might work as professors, industrial consultants or human factors specialist in an educational or business settings.

EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGISTS

These are a diverse group of scientists who investigate a variety of basic behavioural processes in humans and other animals. Prominent areas of experimental research include comparative methods of science, motivation, learning, thought, attention, memory, perception, and language. Most experimental psychologists identify with a particular subfield, such as cognitive psychology, depending on their interests and training. It is important to note that experimental research methods are not limited to the field of experimental psychology; many other subfields rely on experimental methodology to conduct studies. They most likely work in academic settings, teaching courses and supervising students’ research in addition to conducting their own research. They might be employed by a research institution, zoo, business, or a government agency.

PSYCHOMETRIC AND QUANTITATIVE PSYCHOLOGISTS

They study the methods and techniques used to acquire psychological knowledge. A psychometrician may update existing neurocognitive or personality tests or devise new tests for use in clinical and school settings or in business and industry. These psychologists also administer, score, and interpret such tests. Quantitative psychologists collaborate with researchers to design, analyze, and interpret the results of research programs. Psychometric or quantitative psychologists have to be well trained in research methods, statistics, and computer technology. They most likely work at a university or college, testing company, private research firm, or government agency.

REHABILITATION PSYCHOLOGISTS

These are researchers and practitioners who work with people who have lost ideal or normal functioning after an accident, illness, or other events. A rehabilitation psychologist would probably work in a medical rehabilitation institution or hospital. They might also work in a medical school, university, state or government vocational rehabilitation agency or in private practice serving people with physical disabilities.

SPORT PSYCHOLOGISTS

They study the psychological factors that influence and are influenced by, participation in sports and other physical activities. Their professional activities include coach education and athlete preparation, as well as research and teaching. Sports psychologists who also have a clinical or counselling degree can apply those skills to working with individuals with psychological problems, such as anxiety or substance abuse, that might interfere with optimal performance. A sports psychologist working an academic or research settings, part of a team or an organization or in a private capacity.

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