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Education can be as fun as you make it. Psychology is no different. The psychology domain is beginning to gain a lot more traction in recent years owing to the increased need for clinical psychologists. Pop culture has also fuelled the interest in this domain with T.V. shows that play-off psychological clues and decode personality types like The Mentalist, Dexter, or Monk.

The domain also offers multiple opportunities based on your interests, but it’s best you try to understand it a little before diving straight in. If you ultimately want to work with children, find studies at the university or college you attend that focus on children, and befriend the professor(s) that teach undergraduate and graduate-level courses in child psychology for instance, for an introduction to the subject. 

The path to becoming a psychologist usually begins with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, where students learn the fundamentals. You must then obtain a graduate degree. While some graduate programs accept applicants with an undergraduate degree in other disciplines, most encourage students to get a bachelor’s degree in psychology before proceeding.

Once you’ve decided that this domain is for you, you then have to choose your specialty. Psychology is a science that branches out into many specialisations, and you’ve got to decide which of those you’d want to build your career around. There are many positions available for psychologists, with each requiring a different set of skills. Would you rather be a clinical psychologist, who might work on fields as diverse as research, counselling, and psychological assessment; a psychiatrist, a physician who can prescribe medications in conjunction with counselling; or a therapist, who helps people overcome their psychological issues? Or if you prefer to work with children and teenagers, entering into child or adolescent psychology would be your choice. A therapist has a host of choices; they can choose to enter family therapy, relationship counselling, or addiction counselling, among many others. The goal you choose will determine your path. For example, a clinical psychologist may choose to focus on psychological research, and so they might opt to make Experimental Psychology or Behavioural Analysis their specialty.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology is one of the largest specialty areas within psychology. Having a passion for discovery, learning and listening are part of what it takes to be successful as a psychologist who delivers clinical or counselling services. Psychologists trained to provide clinical services work in research, education, training and health sectors. Working with numerous types of people, they focus on individual differences, normal and abnormal behaviour, mental and emotional health, healthy behaviours and mental disorders and their prevention. A clinical psychologist, will have some heavy training in both the theory and practice of psychology. You’ll typically need a doctorate degree in a psychology-related field in order to build a career. A psychiatrist has even more rigorous demands; becoming one requires medical school training.

Health service psychologists are an example of psychologists working in clinical practice. They apply psychological science in their work in ways that range from helping patients overcome depression or anxiety to better understanding how to manage stress. If you are interested in understanding human behaviour and enjoy working with people, a career as a clinical or counselling psychologist may be for you.

Test the waters

Training to be a psychologist can be a very rewarding experience. However, it is important that before you decide to take the plunge, you learn about the process of psychological training first, so your decision to become a psychologist can be an accurate and enjoyable decision.

When people talk about wanting to become a psychologist, they tend to specifically mean they want to become counselling psychologists.  This is no surprise, as psychology is mostly known to the public as a ‘healing profession’. Psychology is, of course, a lot broader than this, but most depictions of psychologists in the media and society are the images of psychologists that help others deal with clinical or personal problems.

Psychotherapy is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction, to help a person change and overcome problems in desired ways. Psychotherapy aims to improve an individual’s well-being and mental health, to resolve or mitigate troublesome behaviours, beliefs, compulsions, thoughts, or emotions, and to improve relationships and social skills. Certain psychotherapies are considered evidence-based for treating some diagnosed mental disorders.

The field of clinical psychology approaches psychotherapy from less of an educational perspective and more of a healthcare perspective. Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat psychological conditions similar to how healthcare workers would diagnose and treat physical medical conditions. These professionals use diagnostic tests and inventories to identify psychological conditions, including emotional and behavioural disorders.

While they may help patients with life changes that contribute to or exacerbate psychological disorders, clinical psychologists are more likely to work with individuals who have a severe diagnosable mental illness rather than those who suffer from less serious symptoms or simply need guidance in handling stressful life events. Some sub-specialties of clinical psychology include health psychology and neuropsychology, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Clinical psychology programs tend to be more research-oriented than counselling psychology programs, and they often stress the importance of hands-on practicum or internship experience.

Psychology is a really rewarding career if you choose it. Take a look at some more off-beat, yet rewarding jobs and careers in the world at the moment!

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