Psychology is a discipline that has many faces, involving various sub-fields to be studied, including clinical, health, sports, forensics and more. Contemporary study emphasises exploring the causes and consequences of behaviour within certain contexts, using systematic and objective procedures to observe, measure and analyse, with back-up from theory, generalisations, explanations and predictions.
Psychology explores a broad range of phenomena, including sensation and perception, learning and memory, emotion and motivation, personality and social behaviour, mental illness and many, many more. Studying psychology could help you to understand people and their behaviours, and give you the tools to make a real difference in people's lives in a wide range of careers. If you need answers to the question "What is psychology?", here are some of the key fields of psychological study and an explanation of where they could take you.
What is Forensic Psychology?
This is the implementation of psychology to the law. Psychologists who take an interest in this field may find themselves working in prisons, rehabilitation centres, police departments, law firms, government agencies or schools. They might work with solicitors/barristers, offenders, victims, police investigators or patients, to name a few. Or they may become involved with the academic study of psychology within law, researching human behaviour, criminology and the legal system as a whole.
Forensic psychologists working in prisons can help with the mental health needs of inmates, or consult with prison staff and inmate solicitors on mental health-related topics. Those who work with law firms might provide psychological assessments, personality profiles, competency evaluations and the like. And in police departments, they might provide counselling or crisis management for department employees. However psychology interacts with the law, forensic psychologists are there to help.
What is Clinical Psychology?
This is the field of psychology associated with the diagnosis, assessment and treatment of mental illness, abnormal behaviour and personality disorders. It integrates the scientific theory of psychology with the treatment of very complex human problems and is an exciting career choice for those looking for work that is challenging and rewarding, making a profound difference to people's lives.
There are various settings that clinical psychologists can work in, including clinics, hospitals, private practices and schools. There are also many capacities they can work in, drawing on their expertise in a variety of ways to achieve different goals. A clinical psychologist might assess and treat psychological orders or drug addictions, conduct clinical research to create programmes for various psychological and social issues, offer testimony in legal settings or, perhaps, teach at a higher education level. Some clinical psychologists might focus on more than one of these services, but the bottom line is that they are playing a part in the prevention and treatment of psychological problems that cause a great deal of suffering for many people.
What is Cognitive Psychology?
Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of the mind as a processor of information. It involves the construction of cognitive models of the way people's minds process data, including language, memory, perception, attention, consciousness and thought. It came into its own in the middle of the 20th Century, as superior experimental methods became available for examining the internal processes of the mind, rather than just analysing external behaviour. The advancement of computer processing also provided a basis for comparative studies.
If you study cognitive psychology, you will be interested in creativity and the ways people solve problems. You may analyse research data, or you may work by observing people. Cognitive psychologists learn and develop through case studies, computer models and laboratory experiments. Studies in cognitive psychology include neuroscience, language acquisition, perception, memory loss, computer science and research methodology. If you are interested in becoming a scientist dealing with such issues, this is the field of study for you.
What is Health Psychology?
Health psychology focuses on the ways biology, psychology, social factors and behaviours influence human health and illness. There are many factors of our behaviour and psychology that can have an impact on physical wellbeing, and health psychologists focus on promoting good health through positive mentalities and behaviours. Health psychologists also work to understand the ways people react to illness, as well as their coping methods and the way they recover. Health psychologists can help to improve the national healthcare system through their work.
Help people to understand and overcome behaviours that are bad for their health, such as smoking or eating too much sugar. Work on strategies to reduce people's stress levels, or encourage safe sexual behaviours. This is a relatively new field of psychology, and as such it is crying out for creative, passionate health psychologists who could become a driving force in the field's future.
What is Social Psychology?
This is the study of how individuals think, feel and behave as part of society. It involves the way being in the presence of others impacts a person's thoughts, feelings and behaviours. As such, it covers quite a lot of ground, and the psychological aspects interact with other fields like anthropology and sociology to form a comprehensive approach to developing an understanding of the individual as it relates to the other.
Develop a deep understanding of things like interpersonal attraction, conformity, prejudice and social perception based on empirical findings from laboratory experiments and research. Social psychologists are often employed to consult on things like the social organisation of businesses, work to reduce conflicts between different social or ethnic groups, or to design mass communications like advertising campaigns. The career prospects for a social psychology expert are diverse, and the fields of study are truly fascinating.
What is Sports Psychology?
Sports psychology is centred around studying how psychology influences different areas of sport, and how it can improve an athlete's performance. Sports psychologists aim to prepare sports professionals, and even amateur participants, to approach competition and training with a positive and productive mindset. This doesn't necessarily have to involve athletes - a sports psychologist could help a referee who needs help coping with the pressure of their role, or counsel an athlete who has been struck with a debilitating injury.
Sports psychologists get a diverse workload, with new challenges to creativity and expertise presenting themselves every day. Travel is often a feature of the job, as you will have to move around to different clinics or hospitals, athlete camps, gyms, training grounds and even university campuses. Watching an individual or a team benefit from your work can be uniquely rewarding, and if you have a love of sport then this could be the perfect career for you.
Studying psychology can be a genuinely life-changing experience, and once you have completed your studies you could do work that changes the world. The career paths that come out of studying psychology are incredibly diverse, and your specialism will dictate what type of contribution you can make to people's lives. If you want to a field of study, and a career, that involves daily challenges and gives you fascinating insight into what it means to be human, then taking a degree in psychology might just be the best decision you ever make.
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