What is applied psychology?
Psychology is the scientific study of people, the mind and behaviour. Specifically, it explores how people feel, how they think, how they act, and how they interact with their environment and with each other. Applied psychology is utilising the results of the scientific research in a healthcare, workplace or educational setting.
As psychology is not only an academic discipline but also a professional practice, this research can also help to develop new therapies which can aid in problems in our personal and professional environments.
Different types of psychologists
There are different areas of psychology in which it is possible to practice and gain the title of Practitioner Psychologist whilst being registered with the Health and Care Professions Council:
- Clinical Psychology
- Counselling Psychology
- Educational Psychology
- Forensic Psychology
- Health Psychology
- Occupational Psychology
- Sport and exercise Psychology
The HCPC core proficiencies can be found at The Health and Care Professions Council website.
Counselling psychologists integrate psychological theory and research with therapeutic practice. They work closely with clients to look at mental health issues and explore the underlying problems that may have caused them. They work collaboratively with individuals to empower them to make decisions for themselves to improve their sense of personal wellbeing. They work across a range of human problems including bereavement, relationships, mental health issues and other significant life events. About half of all counselling psychologists are employed to do clinical work in health and social care settings.
Like counselling psychologists, clinical psychologists aim to reduce psychological distress and to enhance and promote psychological well-being. They deal with a number of mental and physical problems including anxiety, depression, addiction and relationship problems. To assess clients, they use a variety of methods including psychometric tests, interview and observation and work primarily in health and social care settings including hospitals and community mental health teams. Due to their role as a scientist-practitioner they are also involved heavily with research and in evaluation of current services to provide a strong evidence base for practice.
There is considerable overlap between counselling and clinical psychology. Traditionally however, the main difference between counselling and clinical psychology is their perspective and training. Counselling psychologists, in general, focus more on milder concerns like anxiety and depression whereas clinical psychology focuses on individuals with more serious mental health issues such as psychosis. The reality is that both types of psychologist work with similar people and in similar settings, so that the distinction between them is increasingly small.
Real life experience
I was offered sessions of psychology whilst hospitalised after an episode of mania which subsequently resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I can hand on heart say, in my opinion, this was the single most beneficial thing about my whole hospital experience. The sessions provided me with the opportunity to talk about what had happened in my life so far, the psychologist helped me to identify the highs and the lows and how I was able to cope then, but what was different this time. We talked about key life events and how I felt about them at the time and looking back now, we discussed who had supported me at the time and what else was going on in my life when I was dealing with these events.
The psychologist often gave me ‘homework’ to do in between our sessions. For example keeping a diary of my feelings and how my mood changed, or perhaps I would be asked to think in more detail about a particular time of my life with a view to discussing it in our next session.
Having the opportunity to discuss my feelings about very private and emotive events in a confidential environment, where I didn’t have to worry about what people might think or who I would upset, played such a vital part in my acceptance of the events which had led to my mental ill health. The psychologist was able to normalise my feelings and experiences, and in doing so helped me to overcome the guilt I was hiding regarding how I felt about life events and relationships in my family which were still causing me stress at the present time.
I’m sure the medication helped in some ways, but I think of it as the plaster to cover the hole for a while, it numbed me. These sessions were something entirely different. They gave me insight into my illness and also into myself as a person. They helped me understand what had happened to me, why it happened to me and how I might be able to prevent it happening again. They gave me a level of self-awareness that I otherwise may never have found and I believe it is this self-awareness which has kept me well for the past 3 years.