Branches of psychology

The branches of psychology are the different areas or fields of study of psychology. As a science, psychology deals with the study of behavior in its different facets. In fact, in any activity or human group, psychologists play a relevant role in understanding and promoting people’s mental health. The diversity of fields in psychology encompasses a broad spectrum, dynamic and growing as the needs of the modern human population.

Branch of psychologyApplicationsAreas of employment
Clinical neuropsychologyBehaviors in people with trauma or brain injury or who were born with neurological defects.Hospitals, universities, research.
Biological psychologyBrain activity and mental states.Universities, research.
Clinical psychologyPsychopathology, mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.Hospitals, mental health clinics, private practice.
Child and adolescent clinical psychologyBehavioral disorders in children and adolescents.Hospitals, mental health clinics, private practice.
Cognitive and behavioral psychologyBehavioral therapies.Hospitals, mental health clinics, private practice.
Comparative psychologyStudy of behaviors in animal species.Universities, research.
Community psychologyAnalysis of social processes and interactions and design of social interventions.Government organizations.
Health PsychologyManagement of psychological elements in physical illnesses.Hospitals, clinics, private practice.
Sports psychologyStress management in sports competitions.Institutions and sports centers, universities, private practice.
Developmental psychologyBiological, emotional and behavioral transformations throughout life.Universities, research.
Engineering psychologyProduct design with greater acceptance.Companies, industries.
School psychologyPromote healthy learning environments.Schools, colleges, universities.
Experimental psychologyManipulate variables in experiments to investigate psychological phenomena.Universities, research.
Forensic psychologyCollaborate with reports and testimony on psychological aspects in legal cases.Courts of Justice, correctional institutes, legal agencies.
Gerontological psychologyTreatment of mental problems in the elderly.private practice, nursing homes for the elderly.
Military psychologyMental and emotional disorders in the military establishment.Hospitals and military institutions.
Organizational and business psychologyStaff recruitment and selection; behaviors that influence work activity.Public and private organizations, companies, corporations, private consultation.
Couple and family psychologySupport for couples and the family.Hospitals and private practice.

1. Clinical neuropsychology

Clinical neuropsychology is an area of ​​clinical psychology where the relationship between the brain and behavior is evaluated, merging neurology with psychology. Neuropsychologists can evaluate, diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate patients of all ages with neurological and psychiatric conditions.

One of the great pioneers of neuropsychology is Brenda Milner, who discovered that people have multiple memory systems for different motor and language activities.

Applications : Working with individuals who have suffered trauma or damage to the brain or who were born with neurological defects.

Areas of employment : hospitals, research centers, universities, rehabilitation institutions.

2. Biological psychology

Biological psychology seeks to understand the biological basis of psychological functions. Its main topics are:

  • sensory processes,
  • learning and memory,
  • motivation and excitement, and
  • cognition.

Biological psychology uses various research methods:

  • Animal models : at first they did not seem relevant to the human environment, they are today recognized as potentially informative elements for the understanding of normal functions and mental disorders of the human being. By studying non-human species, useful information relevant to humans can be obtained, using a range of preparations and techniques that would not otherwise be possible.
  • Through molecular biology , genes can be identified and sequenced and their function in the brain determined.
  • Twin and Adoption Case Studies : To Determine Behavioral Inheritance.
  • Computational models : neural processing systems involve an extensive network of interconnected neurons

Applications : investigate the communication between the brain and other organs, study the interrelationship of biology and psychology; brain activity and mental states. Physiological and pathological pain; the psychobiology of food. It also applies to the psychological response to stress and its impact on the immune system.

Areas of employment : universities, research institutes.

3. Clinical psychology

Clinical psychology is probably the most popular branch of psychology in the world. It is defined as “the professional and scientific field that seeks to understand human behavior and promote the effective functioning of individuals.”

He is in charge, then, of carrying out evaluations to explain the behavior of the patient, which he uses to his benefit, in terms of personal growth and support.

Lightner Witner established the first clinical psychology course in 1897.

Applications : evaluate and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders, such as phobias, depression, anorexia.

Areas of employment : hospitals, mental health clinics, private practice.

4. Child and adolescent clinical psychology

Child and adolescent clinical psychology is a subspecialty of clinical psychology that focuses on the evaluation and treatment of psychological, emotional, and behavioral disorders in children and youth.

Applications : psychotherapy in adolescents with behavioral problems and emotional difficulties.

Areas of employment : mental health clinics, hospitals, private practice.

5. Cognitive and behavioral psychology

Cognitive and behavioral psychology addresses clinical and experimental aspects to understand the principles of learning, human development, and cognitive processing theories. The goal is to promote appropriate social behaviors to replace inappropriate behaviors and learning disabilities.

Applications : behavioral therapy for the treatment of depressive and anxiety disorders.

Areas of employment : hospitals, rehabilitation institutions, private practice.

6. Comparative psychology

Comparative psychology is seen as part of animal psychology. It is basically the study of the mind and behavior of a non-human animal. The goals are to have a general understanding of the principles that govern the mind and behavior, from their evolutionary origins. Its methods can be experimental and observational.

Applications : study the behavior of animals, their learning and motivations.

Areas of employment : Universities, research institutes.

7. Community psychology

Community social psychology or community psychology is the branch that deals with the “study of psychosocial factors that allow developing, fostering and maintaining the control and power that individuals can exercise over their individual and social environment, to solve problems that afflict them and achieve changes in those environments and in the social structure “(Montero, 1984).

Applications : analyze social processes; study the interactions in a specific social system; design social interventions.

Areas of employment : government organizations.

8. Health psychology

Health psychology is the psychology applied to medicine, that is, the psychological aspects of illness and health. It focuses on the relationship between behavior, emotion, knowledge, social interactions, and biological functioning.

Psychologists in this branch are responsible for:

  • the promotion and maintenance of physical and mental health,
  • the prevention and treatment of psychological problems and
  • the improvement of the public health system.

Applications : working within the healthcare system to help patients manage the psychological elements of their physical problems.

Areas of employment : hospitals, medical clinics, private practice.

9. Sports psychology

The sports psychologist focuses on the factors that influence the mentality of the athlete and the athlete. Its mission is to help athletes identify, refine and achieve their goals in the area that the physical trainer cannot, such as managing anxiety and distraction during competitions, temperamental outbursts and the relationship of sports teams.

On the other hand, it provides techniques to deal with the stress and demands of coaches, family members and the public. Also important is the work of the sports psychologist in the process of recovering from an injury and the consistency in an exercise program.

Applications : motivate athletes to improve their performance.

Areas of employment : sports institutions, universities, private practice.

10. Developmental psychology

Developmental psychology is the branch of psychology that is responsible for the study of human development throughout life, from childhood to adulthood, through adolescence, until reaching old age.

Through observation, ethnographic studies, narrative, and other qualitative research methods, the developmental psychologist seeks:

  • the understanding of the variations in the relationship of the individual with his context and their impact on the trajectory of human life.
  • The explanation of the development process integrating the various functions of the individual as a biological, emotional, cognitive and social being through the various periods of human life.

Applications : how language develops in children, the influence of hormones on adolescent behavior, learning in late stages of life, the role of culture in emotional development at different stages of life.

Areas of employment : universities, research centers

11. Engineering psychology

Engineering psychology involves the participation of psychologists in the design of products to make them more effective, pleasant and practical so that they are more sought after by the consumer. This emerging field is still very little explored but it is envisioned with great potential given the degree of consumerism at a global level.

Applications : participate in the design of new or existing products to improve their acceptance.

Areas of employment : corporations, private companies, government agencies.

12. School psychology

School psychology offers a health service and general practice of psychology, where it is sought:

  • apply the science and practice of psychology to youth, families, and learners of all ages in the school process;
  • promote and protect the educational and personal development of students, through psychological evaluation and individual / group / family intervention with students and parents,
  • promote mental and physical health;
  • advise teachers and professors in the development of educational programs and research,

Applications : work to promote healthy learning environments that meet the emotional, social and pedagogical needs of students, with the participation of parents and educators.

Areas of employment : schools, colleges, universities.

13. Experimental psychology

Experimental psychology is the field of psychology that uses the experimental method, manipulating independent variables to measure dependent variables. It focuses on the demonstration of theories and is limited to the topics of perception, performance, learning, memory and cognition

Experimental psychology began in 1879 with Wilhelm Wundt at the University of Leipzig, Germany.

Applications : use the experimental scientific method to investigate psychological phenomena.

Areas of employment : universities, research institutes, private and public centers.

14. Forensic psychology

It is the field of psychology that directly assists with psychological matters in the courts of law, legal proceedings, forensic and correctional mental health institutions and administrative, judicial and legislative agencies with judicial capacity.

The word “forensic” comes from the Latin forum , which denoted the public space of a city where the courts of justice were established. Forensic psychology dates back to 1908, when Hugo Münsterberg proposed the role of psychologists as experts in legal cases. However, it was not until the 1970s that the field was defined as such.

The objectives of forensic psychology are:

  • generate a report or testimony for judges, juries, prosecutors, among others, whose information allows to assist in making decisions regarding the law.
  • Design, conduct and interpret empirical studies whose purpose is to investigate groups of individuals or areas of concern or relevance to the legal system.

The role of the forensic psychologist is to evaluate a person and use those results to help and educate the court, without implying a benefit to that person if they are guilty. In fact, forensic reports address psycho-legal behaviors, and not explanations, psychodynamics, IQ, or excuses for the defendant’s conduct.

The forensic psychologist can also intervene in:

  • the selection of juries and eyewitnesses,
  • in sexual abuse, stalkers and potential offenders;
  • in battered women’s syndrome;
  • in cases of scams and deception.

Applications : crime scene investigation, defendant profile, court witnesses.

Areas of employment : correctional institutes, law enforcement agencies, government agencies.

15. Gerontological psychology

Gerontological psychology or geropsychology is the area that applies the information and techniques of general psychology to understand and give support to the elderly and their families. The goal is to help them increase their overall well-being by overcoming the obstacles they face and reaching their highest potential during the later stages of life.

Psychologists in this area encounter problems such as depression and anxiety, dementia, end-stage supportive care, among others.

Applications : treatment of mental illness, emotional support services, care and planning at the end of life.

Areas of employment : private practice, nursing homes for the elderly.

16. Military psychology

Military psychology focuses on military personnel and their families. The military psychologist is responsible for:

  • conduct mental health assessments of recruitment candidates to ensure that recruited personnel are mentally and emotionally capable of dealing with the stresses of the military field.
  • Assess, diagnose, and treat staff who are experiencing mental or emotional problems, which may include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, sleep problems, and grief from loss.

Applications : conducting research, conducting tests, treating mental and emotional disorders among military personnel.

Areas of employment : hospitals, military institutions.

17. Organizational and business psychology

Organizational and business (or industrial) psychology is the specialty of psychology that studies human behavior in organizations and work environments. This specialty was founded by Marvin D. Dunette in 1976 when he published the first manual that served as a guide for the development of this field.

The areas of action of this branch of psychology are:

  • consulting on organizational matters.
  • The training of individuals regarding career and job performance issues.
  • The selection of personnel for a certain company or agency.
  • The identification of the behaviors of interest that contribute to the effectiveness of the organizational function, the satisfaction and well-being of those who occupy said organizations.

Applications : apply psychological research to problems in the workplace. Analyze the hierarchies of organizations and detect their weaknesses, such as lack of productivity or waste of company resources.

Areas of employment : corporate companies, government agencies, universities, private consumption.

18. Couple and family psychology

evaluate diagnose and treat mental health and addiction problems in the family group, understand the challenges and interaction patterns that could cause problems.

Applications : working with couples and families to deal with issues that affect the family system.

Areas of employment : hospitals and private practice.

You may be interested in discovering Types of family .

19. Social and personality psychology

Social and personality psychology seeks to understand how the behavior, feelings and knowledge of an individual are the result of the real, imagined or implicit presence of other individuals. In this sense, it seeks to explain and study:

  • the ways in which human behavior is the direct result of an interplay of immediate mental states and social situations; and
  • the factors that influence people to act in a certain way when they are in the presence of other people.

Applications : understand how social interactions affect the way people think and feel.

Areas of employment : research institutes, universities, hospitals, private practice.

Know the differences between psychology and psychiatry

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