Psychology is a field full of myths, in part perhaps because of the breadth of this field of knowledge and intervention. That is why, despite the fact that there is much talk about this type of professional, many people still are not clear about what a psychologist is . This is a field of work that some relate to cruel experiments, others to dream interpretation sessions and still others to almost shamanic rituals.

However, nowadays the work of psychologists has nothing to do with that. The times when therapy sessions in Psychology were based on the “talking cure” proposed by Freud’s followers are far behind us, and despite the influences of post-modern relativism, ancient rituals have never become part of this science.

What is a psychologist? An aid to understanding

Next we will review the question of what psychologists are and what they do, going through the fundamental characteristics of this profession.

Psychologists and the Relationship with Mental Health

The figure of the psychologist is usually associated with mental health and with the fact of receiving in his office people with disorders such as depression, bipolarity, etc. This may cause his work to be confused with that of psychiatrists . However, psychology promotes health through programs that are basically forms of training or sophisticated education.

For example, a person with depression is helped to go through the phases of their disorder by mitigating the negative effects of this phenomenon, a person with a phobia is taught to lower the level of fear and anxiety felt, etc. Psychiatry, on the other hand, tries to influence the organism in a more direct way, modifying it physically or chemically.

Of course, this is not the only difference between psychologists and psychiatrists, but it is one that helps to capture the essence of these teachers. On the other hand, it should be noted that mental health is only one of the many fields in which Psychology works.

Research on broad themes

What is it about studying psychology? If we had to look for a summarized version of the answer to this question, it would be “human behavior”, understanding behavior as thoughts and emotions, not just physical movements. However, there are also many psychologists who study the behavior of non-human animals, and even some who study some in order to better understand others.

The relationship with the unconscious

Current psychology does not work with the Freudian conception of the unconscious in the human mind , since it rejects the idea that the mind can be divided into entities with an agenda of their own interests. Instead, it works on the assumption that in mental processes non-consciousness is the norm (as it is in other animal species) and that consciousness only takes over for some things in our lives, that on which we focus our attention at every moment.

Psychologists are not counselors or witches

Psychology is not a profession characterized by giving advice, but, as we have already seen, trains and educates in adaptive ways of facing challenges , and not in concrete ways of acting in the face of them. For example, they help to manage the stress produced by participation in a professional promotion programme, but they do not indicate at every moment how to act in order to maximise the options for gaining the favour of the boss.

Similarly, they do not make important life decisions for their client based on their “wisdom” or anything like it. The big decisions must be made by you.

Not just biology

Psychologists don’t try to detect a broken “piece” in their patients’ minds the way a mechanic would with his car. Instead, they look at the car’s behavioral habits and the way it relates to the outside world to detect relationships that, because of their content or the way they occur, generate a focus of social or psychological problems.

For example, a person who tends to believe that everything bad that happens to him or her is his or her own fault has an unhealthy pattern of relationships that is intervened upon. The problem is the dynamic between you and the outside world, not a particular part of your brain.

While parts of your nervous system may act abnormally, this is the result of habits you are used to, it does not have to be the cause. Thus, psychologists tend to act from events towards biology, and not the other way around .