When you ask most people what is Psychology, the first image that comes to mind is that of the psychologist who treats a patient, probably lying on a couch. However, Clinical Psychology is just one of the branches of Psychology, a much broader science that studies behavior and the human psyche in all possible areas of action. That means that wherever there are persons, a psychologist will have a job.
What are the branches of Psychology?
Psychology is the science that studies the human psyche, which means that its discoveries can be applied in different areas. Each of these branches of Psychology is a discipline.
All branches of Psychology have a common base but they delve into the concrete contexts in which the problem occurs. In the same way that a doctor can specialize in Cardiology or Pneumology, a psychologist can also specialize in different disciplines.
Therefore, if a child has a learning problem, he shouldn’t go to the clinical psychologist but the educational psychologist and if an older person begins to suffer memory problems, it is best to go to a neuropsychologist.
The different branches of Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
It is the branch of Psychology that is dedicated to analyzing and improving teaching and learning, understanding as teaching and learning those processes that take place within the framework of a school or within the family nucleus. The educational psychologist works with both the teacher and the apprentice, which involves dealing with children or young people, as well as teachers and parents.
The educational psychologist will study the teaching methods, how they affect the students and how to perfect them. It will also analyze the learning strategies used by students and how to optimize them. It will be responsible for understanding the type of relationship that the student establishes with his family and how it fosters or hinders school learning.
In practice, the educational psychologist is often confined to teaching centers and is responsible for providing psychological guidance to students on topics as diverse as drug addiction, sexuality, interpersonal relationships… or address problems such as shyness, aggression, disorders of learning… He also actively participates in vocational guidance processes, as well as in the prevention and resolution of conflicts that are generated in educational environments.
Part of the Educational Psychology is the Developmental Psychology, a branch of Psychology that studies the changes in behavior and the psyche resulting from the maturation of people as they dare the different stages of their development, from childhood to the third age.
The Educational Psychology is based on the discoveries of the Developmental Psychology, proposing techniques and more effective educational methods that take into account the evolutionary period through which the apprentice passes. This means that the educational psychologist doesn’t work only with children and adolescents but can be present in all teaching-learning contexts, including adulthood and the elderly.
- Clinical and/or Health Psychology
This branch of Psychology is essentially responsible for the health-disease relationship in the field of the human psyche. It includes from the simple orientation of a teenager in sexuality issues to psychotherapy to treat disorders such as phobias or depression.
However, it is important to make a differentiation. Clinical Psychology focuses more on the psychopathological process and its treatment, so these psychologists are trained to treat all kinds of mental disorders more or less severe that affect the quality of life of people. In these cases, especially when dealing with more serious pathologies such as psychosis or schizophrenia, it is common to have to work side by side with the psychiatrist to perform the diagnosis, intervention and control of mental disorders.
In clinical psychology there are also different specialties: psychoncology, psychoimmunology, child psychology, psychology of the elderly… The clinical psychologist can also specialize in certain age stage: children and adolescents, adults or seniors. There are also clinical psychologists who specialize in the treatment of sexual dysfunctions, an area of Psychology known as Sexology.
Others specialize in the Psychology of couple and family, a specialty of Psychology that analyzes the person in the context of his closest relationships, with the partner, the children and/or the parents, usually focusing on dysfunctional families. These psychologists analyze interpersonal conflicts and try to provide strategies to their members so that they can function properly and each member finds his place.
Health Psychology, on the other hand, focuses more on analyzing the process of psychological health. Analyzes the body-mind relationships, especially from the effect of diseases, whether eminently psychological or physical, and look for salutogenic patterns that facilitate a good psychological balance. As a result, the health psychologist does not directly treat the disorders, but is mainly involved in mental health prevention plans. Making a more prophylactic work.
Both branches of Psychology, however, converge in addressing less severe problems such as orientation in coping styles in the face of stressful events and grief situations, for example, with the aim of helping people to understand better what happens to them, take on the problems from a different perspective and, ultimately, put into practice a healthier lifestyle.
In some cases, Neuropsychology is included as a branch of Clinical Psychology, but its importance is such that it has earned a position in its own right within the branches of Psychology.
The object of study of this specialty of Psychology is the relationship between the brain and behavior. A neuropsychologist not only knows all the mental disorders that have a neurological basis and a strong psychological component, such as dementia and stroke, but also dominates the functioning of the brain in relation to higher psychic functions.
One of the first and main fields of application of Neuropsychology is in the diagnosis and rehabilitation of neurological disorders but in recent times, given the advance in brain analysis techniques, this branch of Psychology is spreading to other fields, so that we have witnessed the birth of specialties such as Neuromarketing, which analyzes the impact at the brain level of advertising messages and how this influences the consumer’s purchasing decisions and wishes.
- Labor or Institutional Psychology
This branch of Psychology focuses on companies, responsible for analyzing and understanding the relationships established by the person with the production process. For this it is essential to analyze the relationship of the human being with the work he does: his motivations for the work he performs, his interests, the expectations and the level of satisfaction he has with his occupation. But also its relationship with the rest of the co-workers: the organizational climate, the level of satisfaction that it experiences from the relationships that are established, the type of communication that prevails.
The occupational or institutional psychologist also deals with analyzing the correspondence between the potentialities and capabilities of a person with the demands of a certain job and also, is often responsible for developing the psychological profile necessary to occupy a certain position or assume some tasks within the company. It is the well-known “staff selection” that amazes us with its most creative and revolutionary techniques. Once the people are selected, the psychologist often also takes care of their training.
It is also responsible for analyzing what factors hinder the proper functioning of the company and what to do to increase production and improve the working environment. The ultimate goal of the organizational psychologist is to improve productivity and the quality of work by ensuring that the employees feel fulfilled.
In practice, often the psychologist or is confined to the task of selecting the right personnel for the jobs or becomes a clinical psychologist within an organization. Although, it depends to a large extent on the vision of the company since in the big corporations the psychologists usually perform a more creative and flexible work. However, the good news is that it is one of the branches of Psychology with greater professional output.
- Psychology of Advertising or Marketing
The Psychology of Marketing emerged from the Organizational Psychology as it is also focused on meeting the needs of the companies. In this case, it is about increasing sales through advertising.
The psychologist who is dedicated to this area is concerned with the design and promotion of the products on the market. It is the exciting world of the analysis of the target to which a product is directed in order to optimize its most attractive characteristics.
You must apply the knowledge of different branches of Psychology to understand what are the most attractive products or services for the clients. It also analyzes the needs and buying habits of consumers to present the most interesting products that fit their profile, to optimize the return on the investment.
The Psychology of Marketing is also responsible for the processes of branding, to help companies differentiate themselves from the competition and add value to their consumers. These psychologists must be specialists in communication techniques, text analysis and, of course, subliminal advertising techniques. They are usually inserted in the Marketing departments of the companies to contribute to the creation and development of marketing plans and advertising campaigns, so they have to work with different professionals from the most diverse fields.
- Forensic Psychology
It focuses on the analysis of criminal processes. The forensic psychologist is in charge of carrying out the necessary expert opinions in the trials, either for the victims or the accused, but also prepares the convicts for their reintegration into society and provides advice to the relatives.
He determines the degree of veracity of the testimonies and the conditions of emotional stability of the detainees diagnosing the degree of intentionality existing in the crimes. He also evaluate the psychological damages that exist in the victims. In a process of forensic evaluation, the psychologist has the objective of evaluating the person to check if he suffers any disorder that could be an attenuating in the criminal acts, presents false memories or determine if he is lying.
Knowledge of graphology and behavior deviations is needed, but also of the main psychopathologies and child psychology. Although this specialty is not usually coveted among psychologists, it demands solid knowledge in all the branches of Psychology. In addition, his role is also key to making the psychological profiles of criminals that will help in the actions of search and capture.
- Sports Psychology
It is the branch of Psychology dedicated to evaluate and boost sports performance, for which it will resort to psychological techniques that allow the athlete to improve his physical performance. The sports psychologist works the same on an individual level with the athletes as with the teams.
At individual level there are visualization techniques, for example, that allow the athlete to perfect his movements and improve his results. Motivation and empowerment are also worked on, while are given tools so that he can deal with the pressure of training and competitions without breaking down.
In the case of teams, in addition to motivation, cooperation is also worked to promote a good climate that improves performance and solve possible conflicts among its members. Often he also have to work on leadership functions.
A sports psychologist can perform different interventions, from specific treatments to reduce performance anxiety to self-instruction exercises, educational sessions or even training in values through sports.
The ultimate goal of Sports Psychology is to enable the athletes to use the psychological dynamics, the strategies learned and their emotional state in their favor, to make the most of their abilities.
- Social Psychology
This specialty of Psychology focuses on analyzing behavior and psyche in groups, puts emphasis on the collective and how people relate. This branch is related to sociology, although unlike it, it focuses on the impact of groups on the mind of each individual. He analyzes how social processes determine personality and reactions.
The social psychologist studies a wide range of phenomena, ranging from collective violence to social norms, group pressure, the formation of stereotypes and the diffusion of beliefs. Given that it is one of the main branches of psychology, its discoveries usually have a huge impact on the rest of the areas.
Within the Social Psychology is Community Psychology, which focuses on analyzing the problems of specific communities. In this case, the objective is to understand the dynamics within the community and promote positive changes for each of its members so that everyone can improve their quality of life. This psychologist often works with the social worker, and must be inserted in the community to ensure that the change is managed from the inside, so that empowers a self-directed transformation by the community leaders themselves. The community psychologist is just a facilitator.
What is the best branch of Psychology?
Over time will continue to develop new branches of Psychology. The decision for one or another specialty should depend on our potential and how much we’re really attracted by it because, if we choose a specialty for the mere fact that it is better paid, we run the enormous risk of falling into routine and professional dissatisfaction.
On the contrary, if we love the chosen specialty, we will probably work in a creative way, we will open new doors and, finally, we will not only be more satisfied with ourselves but probably also increase our income, as a natural result of that passion.
Particularly, I recommend opting for a degree in General Psychology, in which are taught all the specialties of Psychology and then, with a deeper knowledge of each area, choose the one we like the most, for which it will be necessary to take at least one master. It is a longer path, but it is preferable, not only because you will learn much more about Psychology, but also because it will increase your chances in the labor market by having a broader profile not limited to a single branch.