What is Psychology?

Psychology, according to the American Psychological Association, is the study of the mind and behaviour. It is a field of study that concentrates on the mind, how it functions, and how it can influence behaviour. Psychology is comprised of all areas of human experiences, such as cognitive abilities, the development of mental structure and its corresponding associations to motor functions in growing children as well as the progression to adult and elderly life.

It must be noted that psychologists and psychiatrists, despite working parallel to help individuals with mental health, are specialized in different conditions. Psychologists will use common forms of therapy such as psychotherapy and cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) to alleviate symptoms of distress due to aversive stimuli. This type of treatment is done by specifically targeting the change of thoughts, which, in turn, changes associated behaviour. A psychiatrist, on the other hand, is a medical doctor who will prescribe medication and other treatments to reduce the symptoms of mental health conditions.

Psychology is composed of many branches of study. A few subfields of psychology can be found below:

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology is a combination of theoretical approaches, the implication of science as well as the practice of methods that help clinicians understand mental difficulties that cause distress, disability, and maladjustment of behaviour. With this study of psychology, clinicians can predict and reduce these problems with the promotion of new ways to adjust and modify patterns of thought, which can also yield a greater possibility for a growth mindset and personal development.

A clinical psychologist is eclectic in the sense that it has a wide focus and is known for being able to incorporate all aspects of human performance in its treatment, such as the intellectual, emotional, biological, psychological, social, and behavioural characteristics that may be influencing thoughts and behaviour. It also takes into consideration a multitude of cultures and socioeconomic levels to better understand the individual.

Although clinical psychologists practice different forms of therapy, they may also be elaborate in the conductance of research in order to further knowledge and may assist in other areas such as assessing court cases in the criminal justice system when needed.

Cognitive Psychology

The field of cognitive psychology studies the internal processes of the mind, such as the mechanisms of memory that allow individuals to perceive, process and store information, the ability to learn, problem solve, and acquire language. Cognitive psychology observes the way individuals perceive, reason, converse amongst one another, learn new material, memorize and retain information. This field of study is closely tied with the roots of neuroscience, philosophical thinking, and dialectology.

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology is the focus of psychological changes as an individual progresses over his or her lifespan. It is known for concentrating on the growth of infants and young children, but it may also focus on adolescents, adults, and the elderly.

Features of human developmental psychology are functions and growth of motor skills, the ability to understand situations and apply problem-solving skills, adaptability in learning language, the level of proficiency in self-expression, the creation of identity and personality.

Evolutionary Psychology

The study of evolutionary psychology is the focus on behaviour and how it is influenced by the psychological alterations that have developed throughout evolution. The approach an evolutionary psychologist will take is that of adaptability; human psychological characteristics have persisted over thousands of years due to their benefits on survival and fertility.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology is engaged in employing psychological measures to the law and investigations of criminal cases within the criminal justice system. The practice of forensic psychology is comprised of the assessment of psychological influences that might affect a court case or the behaviour that is being investigated. The forensic psychologist’s position in court is to then present the findings of their work.

Health Psychology

Also known as medical psychology, health psychology observes background information of an individual’s behaviour, biology, socioeconomic status, and education that may contribute to increased illness and decreased optimal health.

It is common that a physician assesses the biological factors and causes of illness beforehand to assess an individual’s biological state, but it is a health psychologist’s position to take a holistic approach and assess the individual’s whole person in order to better understand what is impelling their state of health. By combining the work of medical practitioners and health psychologists, an individual is then able to get the whole picture of what may be causing physical illness.