Branches of Psychology

Introduction to the Branches of Psychology

Learning  about the different branches of Psychology is important because it gives you a clear understanding of how diverse Psychology actually is. The list provided here is by no means intensive, but includes a fair amount of the major streams of Psychology. Studying the brain and how we humans (and animals) think and behave is a very complex science and includes many factors that we should take into consideration; factors such as the many biological influences and environmental influences (nature versus nurture). The mind is very complex, and it is often questioned how a scientist can even study such an abstract and sophisticated as the brain; after all we are using the exact organ as a tool to study itself.

When studying Psychology one should always take into consideration of both of a biological and environmental influence, but there are aslo many diverse practices and opinions in how to approach the study of Psychology which is why we have a multitude of branches seen here.

All of these branches or influences of Psychology can include different science disciplines, and these categories will often change depending on where in the world you are, so determining the exact number of Psychology disciplines is not really relevant.

Branches of PsychologyBranches of Psychology Brain Picture

Educational/School Psychology is the application of psychological knowledge, skills and judgment about human behaviour and development to the understanding of the social, emotional and learning needs of children, adolescents and adults, and to the creation of learning environments that facilitate learning and mental health.

Clinical/Counseling is the application of psychological knowledge, skills and judgment to alleviate maladjustment, disability and discomfort as well as to promote human adaptation, adjustment and personal development. This can include an integration of both science and theory to understand and predict clinical problems. The goal is to help one adapt and improve personal development.

Cognitive Psychology includes the study of internal processes of the mind. This can include problem solving, memory, learning and language. The main goal of cognitive psychology is to learn how people acquire, process, and store information. The application for such information could be to learn how to improve memory, increase accuracy of decisions, and boost learning in educational settings.

Behaviorism was made famous in 1913 by John B. Watson. He wanted to make psychology a more objective science, and said that psychology should focus more on the study of behaviour, because behaviour is not the result of internal mental processes, and instead the result of environmental influences. Behaviorism focussed on how we learn new behaviours from the environment, and the study of behaviorism was made popular by B.F. Skinner after Watson.

Humanism believed that humans had an innate goodness and that our mental processes played an active role in our behaviour. Humanists put high value on our emotions, free will, and subjective views of experience.

Psychoanalysis was made famous by Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) in Austria, and was made to be a method of psychotherapy. Freud’s interpretation of the mind was based on introspection and clinical observation. HIs main focus was unconscious conflict, mental distress and psychopathology. What helped with Freud’s rise to fame in the Psychology world probably had to do with his views on sexuality and the unconscious mind – due to the fact these were quite taboo at the time. Overall, Freud believed the unconscious was responsible for most thought, behaviour and mental disorders.

Structuralism & Functionalism both have different concerns. Structuralism is concerned primarily with ‘what is consciousness?’, while functionalism is concerned with ‘what is consciousness for?…’what are the purposes or functions of consciousness and basic mental processes?’. Both Functionalism and Structuralism were in a constant debate of which was right.

Developmental Psychology is the scientific study of how we as people change over the course of our lives (aka human development). This includes the development of an individual from infant  to a young child, teenagers, and adults. Developmental Psychology includes the study of psychological factors like motor skills, problem solving, moral understanding,acquiring language, emotions, personality, self-concept, and identity formation. Developmental Psychology overlaps with allot of other Psychology disciplines (like linguistics), and a developmental Psychologist would be interested in how environmental factors influence an individuals development over a lifespan.

Evolutionary Psychology looks at human behaviour through psychological adjustments during evolution. These Psychologists apply the same thinking as Biological Evolution theory (natural or sexual selection) and apply these to evolutionary psychology. A generalized example of this thinking is – an evolutionary psychologist believes that human psychological traits are adaptations for survival in the everyday environment of our ancestors.

Neuropsychology is the application of psychological knowledge, skills and judgment about brain-behaviour relationships to the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of individuals with known or suspected central nervous system dysfunction. Neuropsychology is involved in lesion studies in the brain and recording electrical brian activity form cells and groups of cells in higher primates and human studies.

Forensic Psychology is the application of psychological knowledge, skills and judgment about human behaviour to the understanding, assessment, diagnosis and/or treatment of individuals within the context of criminal and/or legal matters. This involves apply psychology to criminal investigation, and the ability to present psychological findings within a court setting in a clear  way; with the statistical findings to back it up.

Social Psychology tries to use scientific methods to study how the imagined, implied, or actual presence of other people influence our behaviours, feelings, and thoughts. A Social Psychologist would be concerned with group behaviour, social perception, non-verbal behaviour, conformity, aggression, prejudice, and leadership. Social Psychology defined generally would be the study of how social influences change human behaviour.

Industrial/Organizational Psychology is the application of psychological knowledge, skills and judgment to further the welfare of people and the effectiveness of organizations by:

  • Understanding the behaviour of individuals and organizations in the workplace
  • Helping individuals pursue meaningful and enriching work AND
  • Assisting organizations in the effective management of their human resources.

Health Psychology is the application of psychological knowledge, skills and judgment to the promotion and maintenance of health, the prevention and treatment of illness, and the identification of determinants of health and illness.

Rehabilitation Psychology is the application of psychological knowledge, skills and judgment to the assessment and treatment of individuals with impairments in their physical, emotional, cognitive, social, or occupational in order to promote maximum functioning and minimize disability.



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