What Is A Psychologist?

Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP

What is a Psychologist?

Article written by Michael Nackashi, Psychology Student at D’Arienzo Psychological Group

What is a Psychologist? Generally speaking, psychology is the study of the mind. There are plenty of specializations within psychology because psychology can be applied to just about anything. Nearly everywhere a human lives, works, learns, develops, or even sleeps there is a branch of psychology that attempts to improve the experience by understanding how the mind works in any given situation.

Arguably, the largest and most popular branch of psychology is clinical psychology. A clinical psychologist is expected to have a strong background in education with a doctorate degree. Clinical psychologists concern themselves with helping individuals with severe cases of mental disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. They are expected to diagnose and give treatment in an attempt to help patients understand and control their particular mental disorder more effectively. Not only does a clinical psychologist work with patients directly, but often conducts research as well. This gives psychologists a good understanding of, not only the facts, but the questions that are still lingering about mental disorders. The hope is to answer those questions considering that a clinical psychologist gets a firsthand look at people with these mental disorders.

Forensic psychology is where psychology and the law intersect. A forensic psychologist must have a doctorate degree in order to assure the people involved that he/she is providing accurate help. Often, a forensic psychologist is not just concerned with forensic psychology; instead forensic psychologists are called from his/her practices to give their specific expertise. Since there is such a broad need for a forensic psychologist, due to the wide variety of court cases from child custody evaluations to sentencing recommendations, it is difficult to specialize in forensic psychology.
Counseling psychologists, unlike clinical psychologists, handle patients with less serious mental disorders. A counseling psychologist should have earned a doctorate degree and should have the necessary training. For the most part, patients seeking a counseling psychologist are mentally healthy and just need guidance or coaching to alleviate stress, resolve issues, and improve their overall well-being.

Psychopharmacology is the study of how drugs affect a person’s mental and emotional state. A medical psychologist is known for providing psychotherapy, counseling, and/or psychotropic medication to patients in need. A medical psychologist understands how drugs interact with the mind and with each other in order to give patients the ideal combination of medication that will improve their mental health. However, there are only two states that have passed bills granting trained psychologists to practice psychopharmacology, New Mexico and Louisiana. The training process that qualifies psychologists to practice psychopharmacology is very thorough as expected. In New Mexico, psychologists must complete 450 hours of instruction, a 400-hour supervised practicum with a minimum of 100 patients, and finally they must pass a national certification exam just to apply to become a medical psychologist. In Louisiana, a post-doctorate master’s degree and the national certification exam must be completed. Also, medical psychologists are required to collaborate with the patient’s physician to assure that no drugs are prescribed that conflict with each other. It is expected that as more and more states push for prescriptive authority the training process will not become any less rigorous.

Health psychology is the practice of healthy biological, psychological, and social behaviors and is primarily focused on achieving a healthier lifestyle in general. Health psychologists are concerned with the theory that an unhealthy mind could come from an accumulation of unhealthy behaviors. Health psychologists teach their patients how to practice healthy behavior to eventually eliminate unnecessary stressors. Also, health psychologists promote healthy biological behaviors like weight management and nutrition.

School psychologists are expected to help younger individuals succeed in the critical moments of their life. A school psychologist should have a strong background in both psychology and education. These psychologists provide counseling, psychotherapy, psychological testing, educational testing, intelligence testing, and learning disability testing. As we all know, a schooling environment can be very stressful and students are often self-critical. There are many factors that contribute to a child losing focus both in the classroom and at home. A school psychologist aims to redirect the child’s focus back to what is important and attempts to bring out the child’s maximum potential by teaching organization skills, learning styles, motivation, and overall good behavior. Although the purpose of school psychology is to improve the success of the student, a school psychologist stresses the importance of collaborating with parents and teachers as well to set up a good learning environment for the student.

Neuropsychologists have a good understanding of the brain’s structure and function. A neuropsychologist learns which structures or processes in a patient’s brain are impairing them from behaving in a favorable way. In other words, an unfavorable behavior could be caused by a change in the health of the patient’s brain or by how the patient’s brain works. Psychology is a study that can be very abstract at times and neuropsychologists attempt to pull psychology to a more concrete level by understanding the relationship between brain form/function and behavior.
Industrial and organizational psychologists focus their attention on helping the overall success of an organization. This implies a lot of factors from employees to the workplace environment. An industrial and organizational psychologist teaches techniques that improve the overall satisfaction and production of all the individuals involved. They do this by setting up training programs and feedback and management systems that have been shown to be very helpful.

A family psychologist is a master of relationships, whether it is the relationship between husband and wife, siblings, or between parents and children. A family can be very complex because there are so many different perspectives within a family. A family psychologist understands all of the different factors that contribute to an unfavorable familial environment and works toward eliminating those unhealthy factors. The family psychologist does this by making each member of the family understand each other better and by having the family work toward common and consensual goals. Family psychologists provide family counseling, couples counseling, marital counseling, and marital therapy.
Child psychology is one of the biggest and definitely one of the most complex branches of psychology, which is appropriate considering that many psychological behaviors are learned at this stage. A child psychologist deals with people anywhere from infancy to adolescence. Child psychology could also be referred to as developmental psychology because a child is constantly developing and a child psychologist attempts to direct that development to reach the child’s full potential. Child psychologists put a lot of time into research, just like clinical psychologists, because there is so much more to learn about a child’s mind.

Dr. D’Arienzo is a board certified clinical psychologist and a licensed psychologist that practices clinical psychology, forensic psychology, industrial organizational psychology and family psychology. Dr. D’Arienzo, along with two Licensed Mental Health Counselors also provide mental health services, life coaching, counseling, and psychotherapy in Jacksonville, Florida.