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What are the Different Types of Clinical Psychologists?

Clinical psychology is a broad field with many areas of specialization. This article describes a few of the most common areas of specialization for those interested in working directly with clients or patients in a clinical or applied setting.

What are the Different Types of Clinical Psychologists?

Psychology as a Broad Field

The field of psychology is broad in its focus and encompasses several different types of specialties. In its most general sense, psychology can be divided into two realms. One that deals directly with individuals in clinical or other applied settings. The other improves our understanding of how we think about, feel, interact, or deal with each other and our environment through theory and research. The specialties and subspecialties within these two broad areas are too numerous to describe here fully. Still, this article will describe some of the more common things within psychology’s applied and clinical realms.

Clinical Psychologists and their Subspecialties

Clinical psychology is the most prominent specialty within Psychology and primarily deals with the study, assessment, and treatment of abnormal behavior, mental disorder, and psychiatric problems. In addition, clinical psychologists are involved in various activities, including research; teaching; supervision, consultation; program development, evaluation, and administration; courtroom testimony; public policy development; and professional practice. Within the field of clinical psychology, several subspecialties exist, such as child psychology, geriatric psychology, health psychology, neuropsychology, and forensic psychology.


Child Psychologists & Adolescent Psychologists 

Child and adolescent psychology is a subspecialty within clinical psychology that deals with the specific needs and concerns of the child. Child and adolescent psychologists focus primarily on individuals' physical, mental, social, and emotional development from prenatal development through young adulthood. These professionals work with youth and their families to assess and treat those issues that affect a child’s development and well-being. Child psychologists are also involved in researching various problems related to a child’s development, including the social, cultural, and socioeconomic context in which the child is raised. For more information on child psychology, see Division 53 of the American Psychological Association, the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.


School Psychologists & Educational Psychologists 

School psychologists or educational psychologists are trained in 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 Ph.D.) as they complete their graduate training in the Faculty of Education (as opposed to the Faculty of Arts or Sciences). Divisions 15, Educational Psychology, and Division 16, School Psychology, of the American Psychological Association serve as good resources for more information on school or educational psychology.


Geropsychologists 

Geriatric psychology is a subspecialty within clinical psychology that deals with older adults' specific needs and concerns. Geropsychologists focus primarily on older adults' continued physical, mental, social, and emotional development. In addition, these professionals work with older adults and their families or other caregivers to assess and treat 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, is a good resource for more information on geriatric psychology.


Clinical Health Psychologists 

Clinical Health Psychology, or Integrated Behavioral Health, is a subspecialty within clinical psychology that deals with physical and mental health's psychological and behavioral aspects. Clinical health psychologists typically work in specialty health clinics, such as diabetes or hypertension clinics, hospitals, and other primary-care settings, where they work with other healthcare 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 Neuropsychologists 

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 show deficits in functioning related to brain trauma or deterioration. These professionals typically work in primary care facilities or private practice, as well as in university and research settings. Division 40, Clinical Neuropsychology, of the American Psychological Association, serves as a good resource 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, and the other pages on this website serve as good resources for those wanting to learn more about clinical forensic psychology. To learn more, check out our post on Careers in 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). 

Specialization in Psychology

Specializing in one or more subfields of psychology offers benefits such as more knowledge in a particular area, higher salaries, and additional employment opportunities. However, choosing a specialization in psychology requires further research and thought. Therefore, before specializing, individuals must conduct research on all recognized subtypes, consider personal interests, and keep their desired working environment in mind. 

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