What Psychologists Do

If you experience challenges in your life associated with thinking, behaving, feeling, perceiving, or socializing, you might want to turn a professional in the field of psychology for help.

However, there is a wide array of subcategories within the mental health field that are worthy of exploration in order to know which type of professional to seek out. Typically, when most people think of psychology, it is common to think of therapy. It’s common to imagine a man or woman across from you, with whom you can share your problems and struggles in life. Yet, sitting across from a client in therapy is not the only way in which psychologists play a role in bettering the mental health of their community.

The following list explores the types of psychologists and therapists within the field and provides a description of their specific focus.

  • Clinical Psychologist – treat individuals who have mental or emotional disorders, which range from the discomforts of daily living to severe psychological disorders.
  • Community Psychologist – specialize in human behavior at home, in school, and in the community.
  • Counseling Psychologist – assists clients to adjust to life, make important decisions, and facilitate coping with challenging circumstances.
  • Developmental Psychologist – focuses on human development from birth to death as well as describes, measures, and explains age-related changes in behavior.
  • Educational Psychologist – focuses on how people learn. Teachers, school administrators, and school counselors might use the findings of an educational psychologist to facilitate the learning of students.
  • Environmental Psychologist – attempt to improve the relationship between humans and their environment by studying the management of natural resources, effects of extreme and harsh environments, and architectural design.
  • Family Psychologist – concentrate on the relationships within a family, family structure, and how development affects the interactions among family members.
  • Forensic Psychologist – studies criminal behavior and assists police departments and other law enforcement officials in criminal investigations.
  • Geriatric Psychologist – focuses on the health of the elderly.
  • Health Psychologist – studies the psychological implications of one’s physical health, such as smoking, weight gain, and fitness.
  • Organizational Psychologist – focuses on one’s relationship to their career. It can include career counseling, retirement planning, and job productivity.
  • Physiological Psychologist – studies the genetic and physical roots of psychological disorders, such as how the brain works.
  • Positive Psychologist – focuses on personal wellness versus focusing on pathology. This new field of psychology takes into account a holistic approach, shifting attention away from disease and towards health.
  • Rehabilitation Psychologist – facilitates the health of those with disabilities and attempts to improve their functioning in the world.
  • School Psychologist – focuses on the intellectual and emotional development of youth.
  • Social Psychologist – studies social interaction, such as pop culture, group behavior, the effects of the media on communities, and social environments.
  • Sport Psychologist – concentrates on the mental and emotional lives of athletes. They attempt to maximize and improve an athlete’s performance.

This list is not comprehensive. There are in fact other fields of psychology, such as psychometrics, which is the field of psychological testing and assessment. Often, private companies and government agencies hire psychometrists to provide psychological assessments. For instance, the Department of Human Services contracts with psychometrists in order to assess parents of children who have reportedly been abused. These assessments might be used in court or to determine whether parents could use mental health services.

Additionally, another newer field of psychology is depth psychology, which is the study of the unconscious, dreams, and archetypes.

Clearly, the field of psychology has grown into many subcategories. Knowing what psychologists specialize in can facilitate finding the right mental health assistance when you need it.


Lefrançois, G.R. (2011). Psychology: The human puzzle. San Diego, CA: Bridgepointe Education, Inc.

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