What do Psychologists do Besides Conduct Therapy?

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Dear Psychologist,

I am considering getting a doctorate in psychology. I loved my psychology classes in college and am fascinated by the human mind. The only thing is, I don't want to do therapy. I don't think I would be comfortable being a therapist. What other things can psychologists do? What should I look for? Thank you, Leela

Dear Leela,

The fact that you loved your psychology classes suggests that you will enjoy the immersion into the human mind that getting a doctorate in psychology involves.Of course, graduate school in psychology covers a wide range of topics: assessment, abnormal psychology, psychological theories, human lifespan development, statistics, and group psychology, and much more. Some schools have a particular theoretical orientation, that is they might be more traditionally psycho-dynamic (focusing on the unconscious and past causes) or behavioral.

Typically a doctorate in psychology takes four or more years of study, at least one approved, supervised internship, and qualified post-doctoral hours in the field. You will also need to pass the state licensing exam. The American Psychological Association is a rich source of information if you want to know more about this training.

Job areas in psychology

While many psychologists do choose to practice therapy either in a private practice setting or some kind of mental health clinic or facility, there are many other job possibilities in the field. First, do you want to be a practitioner at all? Some psychologists prefer to do research or to teach at a university. These choices will likely require a doctorate.

If you want to practice psychology but don't want to be a clinician, consider operating as a facilitator, coach, or consultant. You can coach individuals on leadership, personal development, or wellness. Sports psychologists help athletes harness the power of their mind to improve performance.

You might want to consult to organizations or teams. A psychology degree can be a good fit for these jobs as long as you have the proper coursework and training opportunities. School psychology is a similar matter; you might need to be be qualified by the state to practice in a school setting. Check your state organization for school psychologists.

Other areas of interest include health psychology, forensics, and neuropsychology. Or if you like doing therapy but don't want to work with individuals, you might enjoy pursuing work (and the right licensure) as a group therapist or family therapist. These psychologists take a "systems" approach to the practice of addressing issues in treatment.

Next steps

Psychology is a wide and exciting field. I am sure that new areas will continue to be added in the future as the profession continues to evolve. For now, the best thing you can probably do is start with a well-rounded psychology education in which you explore options through classes and training. You could specialize as you come closer to finishing your degree, or even after you have actually gotten your doctorate. Becoming a psychologist is in fact a life-long endeavor as you will continually be asked to upgrade your skills to meet the needs of your clients.

Best wishes in your career.

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