Psychologists apply scientific methodology to explain human behaviour. They formulate theories, test hypotheses through observation and experiment, and analyse their reports with statistical techniques that help them identify important findings. They will have completed and undergraduate degree in psychology, followed by a postgraduate qualification at Doctorate or equivalent level, in their chosen specialist area. There are nine areas of psychology in which it is possible to become a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society:
Seven of the above areas of psychology are regulated by the Health Professional Council (HPC). To practise in the UK under any of these titles: Clinical, Counselling, Educational, Forensic, Health, Occupational, and Sport and Exercise Psychology, it is necessary to be registered with the HPC.
Clinical psychology aims to reduce psychological distress and to enhance and promote psychological well-being. A wide range of psychological difficulties are dealt with, including anxiety, depression, relationship problems, learning disabilities, child and family problems and serious mental illness.
To assess a client, a clinical psychologist may undertake a clinical assessment using a variety of methods including psychological tests, interviews and direct observation of behaviour. Assessment may lead to therapy, counselling or advice.
Counselling psychologists are a relatively new breed of professional applied psychologists concerned with the integration of psychological theory and research with therapeutic practice. The practice of counselling psychology requires a high level of self-awareness and competence in relating the skills and knowledge of personal and interpersonal dynamics to the therapeutic context.
Educational psychologists tackle the problems encountered by young people in education, which may involve learning difficulties and social or emotional problems. They carry out a wide range of tasks with the aim of enhancing children's learning and enabling teachers to become more aware of the social factors affecting teaching and learning. Reports may be written about children for allocation of special educational places or as part of court proceedings or children's panels.
Forensic psychology is concerned with the psychological aspects of legal processes in courts. The term is also often used to refer to investigative and criminological psychology: applying psychological theory to criminal investigation, understanding psychological problems associated with criminal behaviour and the treatment of criminals.
The clinical side of neuropsychology overlaps with academic neuropsychology, which provides a scientific understanding of the relationship between brain and neuropsychological function. This in turn helps form the basis for assessment and rehabilitation of people with brain injury or other neurological disease.
Occupational psychology is concerned with the performance of people at work and with how individuals, small groups and organisations behave and function. Its aim is to increase the effectiveness of the organisation and improve the job satisfaction of individuals.
The speciality is broader in scope and less formalised than many areas of psychology and it touches on diverse fields, including ergonomics, personnel management and time management. Work can be in advisory, teaching and research roles, and to a lesser extent, in technical and administrative roles.