Psychologist Job Description

A Psychologist’s Career

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Psychologist, Progressive relaxation therapy—Army Medicine (Flickr.com)

The human mind is vast and complex, so it stands to reason that the field of psychology follows suit. The study and practice of psychology deals with the many sections of the human brain and their effects on human behavior, including perception, personality, emotion, attention, motivation, and relationships.

As there are so many aspects of human behavior, most psychologists will specialize in specific fields of psychology. In many fields, psychologists will conduct tests, surveys and laboratory experiments in order to understand behavior. They will use the gathered information to better help their patients with emotional or mental issues.

The Psychologist’s Job Outlook

While specific employment growth varies from one specialty field to the next, the overall employment outlook for psychologists is quite good. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of psychologists should grow 22 percent between 2010 and 2020. This is considerably faster than the average for all occupations.

Psychologists are enjoying an overall greater demand, both in a wide range of settings including facilities like schools and hospitals. Many more people are turning to psychologists for help in managing disorders like depression, stress, addiction, and even family and marital problems.

The aging baby boom population is also more consistently seeking psychological help to deal with the many changes that come with aging. Schools are also relying more and more on the help of in-house psychological counseling. Not only are they being called upon to work with students with special needs or behavioral issues, but they are also contributing greatly to the techniques that teachers use to improve learning.

The Various Fields of Psychology

While we have briefly covered the basics of the career, perhaps the best way to really understand the duties of a psychologist is to look at each specialty field. Tasks and techniques vary quite significantly from one setting to the next, so it’s important to look at each field in its own light. Here are some of the most common specialties:

Clinical Psychologists form the largest specialty group, and they can be found in many settings including private counseling centers, hospitals and clinics. They may work independently, or in a group practice and their work is centered on helping their patients through mental or emotional problems. Some of their patients may be facing long-term disorders like depression or anxiety, and the clinical psychologist may need to work with them on an ongoing basis. Others may be facing an immediate trauma like a serious surgery or loss of a loved one, and in these cases, the clinical psychologist will often only be needed as the patient learns to cope with the change.

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Counseling Psychologists typically work in schools, businesses and private practices. Their work is focused on helping their clients through social, emotional, vocational, educational, or developmental concerns. They will often use various questions and tests to help patients better understand the struggles that they are facing and to help them come to solid decisions.

Developmental Psychologists work in a similar line, though their work is more focused on crucial stages of development throughout a person’s life. Most are focused on child and adolescent development; however, a number are also finding their services in demand amongst the elderly who are coping with drastic changes at a late stage in life.

School Psychologists bring the understanding of psychology to education-related issues – specifically, learning and behavioral problems. They will often work directly with the children and their parents, providing counsel and insight. They may also consult with teachers and other education professionals to recommend teaching or administrative techniques that can improve the learning experience for students.

Health Psychologists help patients understand the effects of physiological, biological and social factors on health. They will provide counsel on healthy living habits, including quitting smoking, minimizing alcohol consumption and safe sex practices. They will also review patients’ reactions to illness and treatment, and provide counsel to patients and doctors as needed.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists work primarily in the business world to ensure the overall productiveness, development and job satisfaction in the work place. They may research methods to enhance productivity and effectiveness in the work force, and they will often work with management to improve the environment as needed for greater overall success.

Forensic Psychologists work in a very niche field, serving the criminal justice system. When a crime is committed by an offender who is mentally imbalanced, the forensic psychologist will be called into analyze their mental state and overall behavior. Their findings will be used to help attorneys, judges and other legal professionals understand the psychological aspects of a particular case. They will often be called in to testify in court as expert witnesses in related cases.

Some Handy Skills

Psychologists need strong literacy skills. They will be expected to write up reports in various formats and must do so in a clear, understandable way. Numeracy skills also come into play quite strongly, as psychologists often need to interpret data summaries and be familiar with various statistical procedures. They will often be faced with numerical information or statistics and will need to understand what the numbers imply – and how to apply that practically to their work.

Strong research and information finding skills are also a must, as there is no way a psychologist could retain all the needed data and information that are required in his work. They will need to know where and how to find the needed information, and how to conduct various research methods as needed.

Of course, a psychologist will need excellent interpersonal and environmental awareness. They will need to fully understand the mechanisms of communication so that they can use that understanding to better help their patients. They will need to critically evaluate potential courses of action and be able to choose the most appropriate response in a given situation.

Finally, they will need a good sense of perspective. Being able to examine an issue from various points of view will be an invaluable asset to psychologists in nearly every field of study.

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