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What Are Psychologists Interested In?

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Question:
Dear Psychologist,

I am in high school and exploring different careers. Can you tell me more about becoming a psychologist? What are they interested in professionally and research-wise? What kind of degree will I need? Thank you, Sarah

Answer:
Dear Sarah,

Psychology is indeed a fascinating subject and if you have any interest in the human experience you will probably enjoy learning more about this ever-developing field. In fact, the field of psychology is so wide that there are many ways for you to practice within it.

The short answer to your question is that psychologists are interested in human beings individually and collectively. They want to study, understand, and help with thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. They create theories and treatments, and work to help effect change in individuals and systems. They are interested in what drives human beings to do what they do.

Training to Become a Psychologist

Becoming a psychologist takes a great amount of work and dedication. Typically to become a clinical psychologist you would have a bachelor's degree and possibly some work experience before applying to graduate school. Then you would undertake a doctoral degree which would include an internship and dissertation. Some programs include extra experience through practicums in the first and second year. After graduating you work under supervision for post-doctoral training hours and then take a licensing exam.

Psychology Specialties

The great thing about psychology is that there are many areas of specialization. Traditionally clinical psychologists have treated patients or groups for some kind of issue or disorder. Some clinical psychologists choose to focus on one age group, such as working with children in play therapy, or else working with the elderly population. Psychologists might also specialize by becoming expert in a particular area, for instance treating anxiety, depression, or trauma. In fact, within each type of disorder there are often multiple kinds of available treatments. Psychologists can learn how to use one or several of these treatments to help their clients.

Other Career Options

Clinical psychologists sometimes go into fields outside of therapy. They may become consultants to schools, organizations, and health-care systems-- bringing their deep understanding to help create change. Some of these professionals will specialize in assessment and crisis intervention. Psychologists can train in a field such as forensics, serving as an expert witness in a court-room about the mental stability of a defendant. They are also entering the rapidly growing field of coaching- becoming leadership coaches to executive and also providing personal coaching to clients. Another interesting sub-field is psychologists who consult to television shows and marketing firms. You can find out about many of these areas through the American Psychological Association.

Psychologists might also choose to become researcher who investigate human problems and provide solutions. They can conduct their research in a variety of ways from surveys and interviews to focus groups.

What will the field of psychology bring in the future? New theories and treatments are constantly being created as psychologists learn what works with their patients. If you are interested in human nature, in what helps people to change, and in how the mind and emotions work, becoming a psychologist might be a good career choice for you.

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