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Types of psychologists

Deciding to attend therapy can be a series of decisions; what type of therapist and what treatment model? Previously, I discussed the benefits of seeing a psychologist. In this article, I shall discuss the different psychologists and how to choose the right one to help you. 

What is psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behaviour. It is a complex discipline that considers everything it means to be human, from how the brain works to the environmental and social influences shaping behaviour. 

If you are considering therapy with a psychologist, it is impossible to cast your cloak wide, hoping to find someone who has studied all aspects of psychology. Different psychologists are trained to work with different things, and not all psychologists have training in or can provide therapy. It’s essential if you want treatment to find the proper type of psychologist who is trained therapeutically. 

The types of psychologists are similar in the UK, where I trained, and Ireland, where I have worked.

What are the different types of psychologists?

If you are looking for therapy, just the first two clinical and counselling psychologists are relevant, as they work therapeutically.

  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Counselling Psychologist
  • Academic and Teaching
  • Assistant Psychologist
  • Health Psychologist
  • Educational Psychologists
  • Forensic psychologist
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Occupational Psychologist
  • Sport Psychologist

Clinical psychologist

A clinical psychologist is a specialist who provides assessment, treatment, and research in mental health and psychology. They focus on assessing and diagnosing mental illnesses and psychological problems and use various therapies to treat these disorders. 

Counselling psychologist

According to the British Psychological Society, counselling psychologists seek to improve psychological functioning and wellbeing using psychological formulations. 

Clinical and counselling psychologists are trained in mental health and therapy models and can work therapeutically. They both;

Understand the Mind

Psychologists use the scientific study of the mind and behaviour to understand people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. This helps them to identify and diagnose any mental health issues.

Assess and Collect Information

Psychologists conduct assessments to determine areas of concern and gather information through interviews, tests, surveys, and observations. This helps them to understand the individual’s current situation and any underlying issues.

Create Treatment Plans

Psychologists work with individuals, families, and groups to create treatment plans that address their needs. Treatment plans involve counselling, psychotherapy, or other forms of therapy.

Provide Treatment

Psychologists provide interventions that are tailored to the individual’s needs. Interventions may include counselling, psychotherapy, and other forms of therapy. These interventions can help reduce distress, resolve crises, and improve a person’s wellbeing.

Monitor Progress

Psychologists monitor the individual’s progress to evaluate the treatment’s effectiveness. They may change the treatment plan to optimise the individual’s progress.

As you can see, the work is similar, but where they can differ is counselling psychologists focus more on therapy models when training and clinical psychologists train to use psychometric tests. That said, counselling psychologists working in, for example, the NHS also use psychometric testing, and clinical psychologists can undertake further therapy training.

Academic and Teaching

A considerable number of counselling and clinical psychologists will also teach. This may comprise a module in a doctoral training programme and supervising research. 

There are also teachers or lecturers of psychology that are academic and cannot provide therapy. They could have completed an undergraduate in psychology and studied up to a PhD level in psychology. However, even though they are doctors, they have yet to undertake formal training that would allow them to work therapeutically with you. 

Assistant psychologist

I worked as an assistant psychologist many moons ago. These positions are highly prized and fiercely contended as they are considered stepping stones to getting onto clinical or counselling psychology courses. A qualified psychologist supervises all the work of an assistant, which can include running group projects, undertaking behavioural observations and carrying out research. 

Health psychologist

Health psychologists can work with people experiencing health challenges to help improve their wellbeing and acceptance of living with chronic illness. They also may work closely with other professionals to coordinate their client’s care. Health psychologists, like clinical and counselling, may also lecture at universities. 

Educational psychologists

Educational psychologists are concerned with the learning and development of children. 

Forensic psychologists

Forensic psychologists apply their expertise to legal matters, providing assessments, therapy, and consultation to law enforcement, courts, attorneys, and corrections agencies.


 Neuropsychologists may be called upon to treat various conditions, including autism spectrum disorders, brain tumours, dementia, ADHD, learning disorders, seizure disorders, and sports-related traumatic brain injuries. 

Neuropsychologists have an essential role in understanding how personality can change after a brain injury and how to prevent cognitive decline because of ageing. They use cognitive assessments to evaluate the individual’s state of brain health. They may also specialise in cognitive functioning, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving. 

Occupational psychologists

Occupational psychology is distinct from other branches of psychology because it focuses explicitly on workplace behaviour and how it affects the success and satisfaction of employees. While other types of psychologists may focus on mental health or behaviour in general, occupational and industrial psychologists hone in on the workplace and aim to make the work environment more conducive to productivity.

Sport psychologist

Sport and exercise psychologists focus on how mental processes affect physical performance and overall well-being in the field of sport and exercise.

In addition to the main types of psychologists listed above, there are also different subfields of psychology that you might come across. I shall explain some of these below.

Behavioural Psychologists

A behavioural psychologist studies and seeks to understand observable behaviours and how to change them to solve real-life problems. They use techniques such as observation, experimentation, analysis and reinforcement to understand the relationship between stimuli and behaviour better.

Child and Adolescent Psychologists

Child and adolescent psychologists specialise in working with children and young adults to assess and treat a variety of psychological difficulties. 

Types of child and adolescent psychologists include:

  1. School Psychologist: School psychologists help children in school settings cope with emotional, behavioural, social, and academic issues. They collaborate with parents, teachers, students, and other school staff to create a healthy, safe, and productive learning environment.

Addiction Psychology

Addiction psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on helping people struggling with addiction. This type of psychology looks at the underlying causes of addiction, such as mental health issues, stress, trauma and environment, and works to identify and treat them. Addiction psychologists use various approaches, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling, and psychotherapy, to help people change their behaviour and overcome their addiction.

Social Psychologist

Social psychology is the study of how people interact with one another and how the presence of others influences their behaviour, either real, imagined, or implied. It focuses on social behaviour factors, such as attitudes, beliefs, emotions, evaluations, and interpersonal relationships.

Social psychology is interested in how our image of ourselves is affected by others, why we conform to social norms, and what causes us to be loving or aggressive. It also looks at understanding discrimination through theories that describe how groups of people relate to each other and how culture is expressed through social learning. Social psychologists seek to understand and explain how the presence of others impacts people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.

How to choose the right psychologist for you?

Choose the type of psychologist you need

When choosing a psychologist, you must know the available types and how they can help you. It is essential to consider the area of expertise of each professional. If you seek a psychologist to help with a current difficulty or mental health condition. You need to look for the type of psychologist that can provide therapy, i.e., a clinical or counselling psychologist. 

You can narrow your search by knowing what therapy model you wish to work in as some specialise in cognitive-behavioural therapy, which focuses on identifying and changing negative patterns of thinking and behaviour. In contrast, others specialise in psychodynamic therapy, which focuses on exploring the unconscious influences on thoughts and behaviour. In addition, many psychologists specialise in treating certain conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or trauma.

It is also essential to look for a psychologist who is a good fit for you. Consider factors such as their experience, availability, and approach to treatment. Additionally, there are specific certifications and qualifications that psychologists must meet in order to practice, so make sure the professional you choose is properly qualified.

Make a list of potential psychologists.

Step 1: Research various psychologist specialities online to determine which best suits your long-term goals and interests. 

Step 2: Once you have identified a speciality, search for psychologists in your area who practice that speciality. Make a list of potential psychologists and their contact information.

Step 3: Contact the psychologists to learn more about their educational background, experience, and services offered.

Ask friends or family for referrals.

Now that there is less stigma in looking after your mental health, you might feel comfortable asking people you know to recommend a psychologist.

Overall, the right psychologist for you is experienced in treating your specific condition, and whose approach to therapy matches your needs. You can find the psychologist right for you with some research and thought.