Psychology as a Broad Field
The field of psychology is broad in its focus and encompasses a number of different types of specialties. In its broadest sense, the field of psychology can be divided into that which deals directly with clients or patients in clinical or other applied settings and that which deals with improving our understanding of the wide variety of ways in which we think about, feel, interact, or deal with each other and our environment through theory and research. The specialties and subspecialties within each of these two broad areas are too numerous to fully describe here but this article will describe some of the more common specialties within the applied or clinical realm of psychology.
Clinical Psychologists and their Subspecialties
Clinical psychology is perhaps the largest specialty within Psychology and primarily deals with the study, assessment, and treatment of abnormal behavior, mental disorder and psychiatric problems. Clinical psychologists are involved in a variety of different activities, including: research; teaching; supervision and consultation; program development, evaluation, and administration; courtroom testimony; development of public policy; and professional practice. Within the field of clinical psychology, a number of subspecialties exist, such as child psychology, geriatric psychology, health psychology, neuropsychology, and forensic psychology.
Child psychology is a subspecialty within clinical psychology that deals with the specific needs and concerns of the child. Child psychologists focus primarily on the physical, mental, social, and emotional development of children from prenatal development through adolescence. These professionals work with children and their families to provide assessment and treatment of those issues that affect a child’s development and wellbeing. Child psychologists are also involved in studying and conducting research on various issues related to a child’s development, including the social, cultural, and socioeconomic context in which the child is being raised. Division 53 of the American Psychological Association, the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, is a good resource for more information on child psychology.
School Psychologists & Educational Psychologists
School psychologists or educational psychologists are those that are trained in both psychology and education and work with children and youth to help them succeed socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. School psychologists typically receive an EdD degree (as opposed to a PhD) as they typically complete their graduate training in the Faculty of Education (as opposed to the Faculty of Arts or Sciences). Divisions 15 | Educational Psychology of the American Psychological Association serve as good resources for more information on school or educational psychology.
Geriatric psychology is a subspecialty within clinical psychology that deals with the specific needs and concerns of older adults. Geropsychologists focus primarily on the continued physical, mental, social, and emotional development of older adults. These professionals work with older adults and their families or other caregivers to provide assessment and treatment of those issues that affect older adults, such as cognitive function and depression, and to improve the quality of life of older adults and their caregivers. Division 20, Adult Development and Aging, of the American Psychological Association serves as a good resource for more information on geriatric psychology.
Clinical Health Psychologists
Clinical Health Psychology is a subspecialty within clinical psychology that deals with the psychological and behavioral aspects of physical and mental health. Clinical health psychologists typically work in specialty health clinics, such as diabetes or hypertension clinics, or hospitals and other primary-care settings where they work with other health care providers to assist patients with psychological issues related to health and illness. Division 38, Health Psychology, of the American Psychological Association serves as a good resource for those interested in learning more about health psychology.
Clinical Neuropsychology is a subspecialty of clinical psychology that deals with the relationship between the brain and human behavior. Clinical neuropsychologists provide assessment and intervention services for those individuals who have sustained brain injuries or who show deficits in functioning that are related to brain trauma or deterioration. These professionals typically work in primary care facilities or in private practice, as well as in university and research settings. Division 40, Clinical neuropsychology, of the American Psychological Association serves as a good resources for more information about neuropsychology.
Clinical Forensic Psychologists
Clinical Forensic Psychology is a subspecialty of clinical psychology that deals with the intersection of clinical psychology and the law. Clinical forensic psychologists provide assessment, consultation, and intervention services for those involved with the criminal or civil justice systems and assist the court in making legal determinations of relevant issues. These professionals may work in forensic facilities, state hospitals, and correctional institutions as well as in research settings and private practice. Division 41 of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychology-Law Society, as well as the other pages in this website serve as a good resources for those wanting to learn more about clinical forensic psychology.
Multiple Clinical Specialties
Many psychologists work with a variety of different types of groups or individuals and some work in more than subspecialty of clinical psychology. Currently, there appears to be increasing demand for certain type of multiple-specialty clinical psychologists, such as forensic neuropsychologists, and pediatric psychologists (those who work with children in health psychology settings).