Psychologists conduct research about human behavior and mental health. Research psychologists specialize in the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional dimensions of human behavior. Psychologists visit patients in hospitals, mental health clinics, or schools. Psychologists working in private industry, government, or nonprofit organizations may conduct research, provide training, and develop organizational models.

Psychologists develop hypotheses and collect data to prove their theories. Psychologists may conduct controlled experiments or administer intelligence, aptitude, personality, or performance tests during their research, or they can make observations, conduct interviews, or supervise clinical studies.

Psychologists can also specialize in one or many fields, such as human and health services, education, law, and management.

Clinical psychologists, constituting the majority of specialists, work in solo or group practices, hospitals, counseling centers, or clinics. They assist individuals with mental illness or stress, as well as counsel individuals experiencing trauma. Certain psychologists work in physical rehabilitation clinics assisting people with spinal cord injuries, chronic pain, strokes, or other serious medical conditions. Some clinical psychologists assist individuals coping with such personal tragedies such as the death of a family member or a divorce.

Clinical psychologists conduct interviews and diagnostic tests. They offer psychotherapy services for individuals, families, or groups and recommend behavior solutions. Clinical psychologists sometimes work with doctors or other specialists to organize intervention and treatment programs patients can understand. Some clinical psychologists train graduate students in universities and medical schools, and some clinical psychologists supervise local mental health programs.

Clinical psychologists can specialize in geropsychology, neuropsychology, and health psychology. Health psychologists examine biological, social, and psychological factors affecting health. They provide counseling to assist patients adjusting to an injury or illness or provide preventative health solutions. Neuropsychologists specialize in the relationship between the nervous system and behavior, usually working with the victims of strokes and brain injuries. Geropsychologists specialize in elderly peoples' psychological problems. The growing number of specialists shows that more services are being directed toward specific groups.

Clinical psychologists often consult doctors about the best treatments or medications for their patients. Clinical psychologists are not permitted to prescribe medication, but those with special certifications in Louisiana and New Mexico are permitted to prescribe some medications. Counseling psychologists conduct interviews and tests at hospitals, universities, or counseling clinics to develop the best strategies to help people deal with difficult life circumstances.

School psychologists counsel students in elementary, middle, and high schools. They meet with teachers, parents, and administrators to develop safe and supportive schools. They also counsel struggling students to determine learning and behavioral problems and help disabled and special needs students.

School psychologists use their knowledge and skills to improve teaching, learning, and social skills. They also determine whether academic, prevention, and behavior modification programs are effective.

Industrial organizational psychologists use their knowledge and skills to improve the atmosphere in the workplace and productivity. They also conduct management and marketing research, as well as screen, train, and interview job applicants. Industrial consultants are often hired by management to resolve problems.

Developmental psychologists specialize in physiological, social, and cognitive development in infants, children, adolescences, and the elderly. Some may also specialize in developmental disabilities. For example, more research is being conducted to help people remain independent in their later years.

Social psychologists observe how people interact with others. They specialize in applied psychology, marketing research, and developing organizational systems. In particular, they focus on behavior, leadership, and feelings.

Experimental or research psychologists work for universities, private research laboratories, private industry, and government agencies. They study human and animal behavior. Research topics include motivation, attention, thought, learning, sensory perception, memory, the consequences of drug use, and biological causes affecting behavior such as genetics.

Work environment. Clinical psychologists providing therapy usually work in their own offices at their convenience. Psychologists working in clinics or hospitals often work night and weekends while school and government psychologists work regular daytime hours. Psychologists at colleges and universities spend their time researching and teaching while some still meet with patients part-time.

Many psychologists work with teams of other professionals and psychologists. Deadlines and full schedules can create stress, and psychologists are often interrupted and often must travel to conferences.

Career Training and Education

Most psychologists hold graduate degrees in general, counseling, school, clinical, or various other branches of psychology. If a career in psychology interests, you select a program that is accredited. Information about accredited psychology graduate degree programs can be obtained from the American Psychological Association (APA).

Most students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degree programs in psychology are required to take courses in abnormal, clinical, and child psychology, behavior science, sociology, and child development.

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