It is not easy to define a psychologist as there are many specializations. But in summary, the psychologist is a qualified professional who has received formal university training in Psychology (Bachelor or Degree in Psychology).

This professional studies, from a scientific point of view, the way in which individuals think, feel and behave, and has explanatory models and sufficient knowledge to be able to apply the appropriate tools and techniques for the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and intervention in the different problems that can arise in different areas: education, organization, clinic, community, among others.

Sometimes psychologists also work to improve the performance or potential of an organization or individual.

Psychologists do not only treat psychopathologies

As we can see, the definition of a psychologist is complex. But it can be stated that he or she deals with certain aspects of human behaviour, such as thought, emotions, behaviour and interpersonal relationships to help other people or groups to understand themselves better and to solve their psychological and relational needs so that they can enjoy greater psychological well-being.

On the other hand, it must be clarified that not all psychologists are dedicated to the treatment of psychopathologies. For example, sports psychologists can help athletes to improve their sports performance.

What training does a psychologist have?

Psychology is a very broad field that covers different areas of application. Therefore, there are certain differences in the educational content of the different countries . For example, the curriculum in most Latin American countries, which lasts five years, consists of a basic cycle of two years, and from the third year onwards students specialise in clinical, educational or organisational psychology (the latter, also called industrial psychology ).

In contrast, in Spain, the duration of the Degree in Psychology is four years. Specialization is achieved through the different postgraduate degrees that exist.

Postgraduate degrees can be either official or proprietary degrees. The first ones give the option to access a doctorate.

If you want to know more about training in psychology, you can visit our articles:

  • Why study Psychology? 10 points to evaluate (from psychologist Bertrand Regader)
  • Top 20 Masters in Psychology
  • The 10 best universities to study Psychology in Spain

It is necessary for psychologists to keep up to date in their field of practice, for which they can attend seminars and courses to keep up to date with the profession.

What psychologists do and how they help us

Psychologists are dedicated to research, practice and teaching on a wide range of topics related to human thought, emotions and behavior. They work with individuals, groups (such as families or sports teams) and organizations. Some psychologists also work with animals. For example, with dogs.

Below are some themes and problems that psychologists usually work with :

  • Mental health and problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias or schizophrenia
  • Neurological, genetic, psychological and social determinants of behavior
  • Brain injuries and degenerative brain diseases
  • Perception and management of pain
  • Psychological factors associated with physical problems and diseases (e.g., diabetes or cancer)
  • Psychological factors associated with terminal illness
  • Cognitive functions such as attention, learning, memory, problem solving and intelligence
  • Psychological development throughout life
  • Criminal behaviour, crime prevention, victim care and psychological factors related to the criminal and judicial field
  • Substance use and abuse
  • Psychological well-being: management of emotions and other related aspects (e.g., stress)
  • Personal development and growth (e.g., goal realization and planning)
  • Factors influencing the maintenance of “wellness”, i.e. mental, emotional and physical balance
  • Social and cultural behaviors and relationships between individuals and groups
  • Psychological factors related to performance in organizations and sports

The usefulness of psychologists

What psychologists do has to do with understanding people’s behavior and mental processes, but it also has a very clear applied part. In the end, there is little point in understanding something if this knowledge cannot be applied. That’s why psychology has a research aspect and an application aspect.

In the first area we find, for example, psychologists who study perception and decision making, and in the applied part is that part of the psychology community that applies this knowledge to psychotherapy, marketing psychology, etc.

In short, there are many professional and academic environments that benefit from the work that psychologists do on a daily basis.

Differences between psychologists and psychiatrists

Psychology and psychiatry are two disciplines that are usually confused despite being two different fields of application within the field of mental health.

Some differences between the two practices are: psychologists have a degree or diploma in psychology while psychiatrists have studied medicine, both use different treatments (psychologists cannot use drugs, psychiatrists can) or the problems they treat are different. In the latter case, psychologists do not only work in the clinical field, but they can also work with people who do not suffer from psychopathology.

If you want to know more about both disciplines, you can read this post: “What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

Where do psychologists work?

Psychologists work in different places because there are many fields of application . Some work in schools, others in organisations, others in private clinics and others in prisons. Some psychologists can even exercise their profession as researchers and others as teachers.

Although the fields of application of psychology are many, the best known areas areClinical psychology, educational and developmental psychology, experimental psychology, neuroscience, and social and organizational psychology.

In addition to these areas, psychologists can specialize in:Forensic psychology, sports psychology, nutritional psychology, criminal psychology, legal psychology, sexology or coaching.