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A psychologist is someone who studies the mind and behavior of humans and other animals. Research psychologists study perception, cognition, attention, emotion, motivation, personality, behavior and interpersonal relationships. Psychologists in health services include counselors who tend to conduct more vocational assessment and less projective or objective assessment, and work in public service or university clinics, and clinicians who tend to work in hospitals or private practice. Psychologists working in business, industry, and government engage in and apply research to employee hiring, firing, training, and other personnel issues; they may also facilitate training programs, and design organisational procedures or processes.

There are many different types of psychologists, as is reflected by the 56 different divisions of the American Psychological Association (APA). Psychologists are generally described as being either "research-oriented" or "applied". This division parallels the contrast between "scientists" and "practitioners", or between "scholars" and "clinicians". The training models endorsed by the APA require that clinicians be trained as both researchers and practitioners, and that they possess advanced degrees.

Most typically, a psychologist deals with patients who are suffering mental health problems, providing these patients with counseling or psychotherapy. Although clinical therapy is a common role of psychologists, it is just one area of specialization. Scholars and academics conducting research and teaching in universities also constitute a sizable portion of psychologists.

Licensing and regulation

United States and Canada

Full membership with the American Psychological Association in United States and Canada requires doctoral training whereas associate membership requires at least two years of postgraduate studies in psychology or approved relate discipline.

Outside of government and academia, a professional in the U.S. or Canada must also hold a psychology license to either practice psychology or use the title "psychologist". The most commonly recognized psychology professionals are clinical and counseling psychologists, those who provide psychotherapy and/or administer and interpret psychological "tests." There are state-by-state differences in requirements for academics in psychology and government employees.

Psychologists in the United States have attempted to have laws changed so they can prescribe drugs, like psychiatrists do. They have been successful in some states.


The title 'psychologist' is restricted by law. Registration as a psychologist is governed by State and Territory Psychology Registration Board. The minimum requirements for registration as a psychologist is an approved four year bachelors degree majoring in psychology and either two years of further accredited study and/or two years of work supervised by a registered psychologist. In Western Australia, specialist title registration distinguishes between registered psychologists (i.e., four year trained), and specialist psychologists (i.e., with an approved Masters degree). Membership with Australian Psychological Society (APS) differs from registration as a psychologist. Full membership (MAPS) of the APS requires six years tertiary study. Associate memberships and student subscriptions are available. Restrictions apply to all who want to use the title 'psychologist' in any form in all states and territories of Australia. However, the terms 'psychotherapist', 'social worker', and 'counselor' is currently self-regulated with several organizations campaigning for government regulation.


In Germany, the use of the title 'Diplom-Psychologe' is restricted by law. Only those are allowed to name themselves "Diplom-Psychologe", who hold the corresponding university degree "Diplom-Psychologe". The degree is equivalent to a master-degree in psychology and is offered after approximately five years full-time education. After the graduation psychologists who have specialised in clinical psychology are eligible to work in hospitals that provide psychological treatment. They are not allowed to offer psychotherapeutical treatment that is covered by compulsory health insurance funds. The offer of health-insurance covered psychotherapy, a specialized training that normally lasts between three and five years depending on the area chosen (behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis or psychodynamic psychotherapy). The training combines in-depth theoretical knowledge with supervised patient care and self-reflection units. After having completed the training requirements, psychologists take a state-run exam. The pass of the exam allows to hold the official title of a 'psychological psychotherapist' (psychologischer Psychotherapeut) which is exclusively attainable for university-educated psychologists who underwent the psychotherapeutical training named above.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the use of the title 'psychologist' is restricted by law. Initially, only 'clinical psychologist' and 'registered psychologist' were restricted (to people qualified as such). However, in 2004, the use of psychologist is now limited to only those registered psychologists (including clinical psychologists). This is to prevent the misrepresentation of other psychology qualifications in the mental health field. Academic psychologists (e.g., social psychologists) are now only able to refer to themselves as 'researchers in psychology'.


In Sweden the titles "psychologist" and "practiced psychologist" are restricted in law. It can only be used after receiving a license from the government. The basic requirements are a completed five years specialised course in psychology (equivalent of a Master's degree) and 12 months of practice under supervision. All other uses are banned, though often challenged."Psychotherapist" follows similar rules but the basic educational demands are another 1.5 years (spread out over three years) at a specialised course in psychotherapy (that do vary a lot concerning theoretical footing), in addition to an academical level degree within a field concerning the treatment of people (psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist a.s.o.). Others than psychologist usually have to complete their education with basic courses in psychotherapy to meet the demands for the applied psychotherapy classes.

United Kingdom

In the UK the use of the title "chartered psychologist" is protected by statutory regulation. From the 1st July 2009, the following titles are also protected by the Health Professions Council (HPC-UK): "registered psychologist" and "practitioner psychologist"; moreover, the following specialist titles are protected: clinical psychologist, counselling psychologist, educational psychologist, forensic psychologist, health psychologist, occupational psychologist and Sport and exercise psychologist. However, it is also an offense to state that someone who is not in the appropriate section of the HPC-UK Register provides clinical psychology services, counselling psychology services, educational psychology services, forensic psychology services, health psychology services, occupational psychology services or sport and exercise psychology services. The threshold level of qualification for entry to the Register for clinical, counselling and educational psychologists is a professional doctorate (and in the case of the latter two the British Psychological Society's Professional Qualification which meets the standars of a professional doctorate). The title ‘psychologist’ is not protected on its own.. Also the title of "neuropsychologist" is not protected at present; neither is the title of "psychotherapist". The British Psychological Society is working with the HPC-UK to ensure that the title of "neuropsychologist" is regulated as a specialist title for practitioner psychologists; one of the options could be the use of post-chartered / post-doctoral level registers, like the one currently held for Chartered Psychologists Specialising in Psychotherapy (accreditation of Psychologists as Psychotherapists).

At present the registration in order to use the title 'psychologist', 'psychotherapist' or 'therapist' is voluntary, in other words it is not required by any Act of Parliament, but the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) is campaigning with other related organizations for the statutory regulation of the 'talking therapy' professions. Only psychotherapists who meet the training requirements of UKCP and abide by its ethical guidelines are included on the UKCP's register of psychotherapists. The Royal College of Psychiatrists and the British Psychological Society are special members of the UKCP.

Contrast with psychiatrist

While the medical specialty of psychiatry utilizes research in the field of neuroscience, psychology, medicine, biology, biochemistry, and pharmacology, it has generally been considered a middle ground between neurology and psychology. Unlike other physicians and neurologists, psychiatrists are trained to varying extents in the use of psychotherapy and other therapeutic communication techniques. Psychiatrists also differ from psychologists in that they are physicians and the entirety of their post-graduate training revolves around the field of medicine. Psychiatrists can therefore counsel patients, prescribe medication, order laboratory test, utilize neuroimaging in a research setting, and conduct physical examinations.

The predominant intervention technique of psychologists is psychotherapy. Psychologists commonly use neuroimaging in research settings. In conjunction with physicians, psychologists are approved to participate in functional neuroimaging studies in the clinical setting. In some US states, specifically New Mexicomarker and Louisianamarker, some psychologists with special doctoral training have been granted prescriptive authority for certain mental health disorders upon agreement with the patient's physician.

See also


  1. Norcross, John. (2000). Clinical versus counseling psychology: What's the diff? Eye on Psi Chi, 5(1), 20-22.
  2. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook: Psychologists
  3. Divisions of the APA
  4. See: Scientist–practitioner model
  5. What is Psychology? at
  6. APA Membership information
  7. "Currently, all (State) jurisdictions have laws that limit the use of the term psychologist to those who are licensed or who are specifically exempt, as in an exempt setting." (Reference: American Psychological Association (APA) Division 14, Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP))
  9. e.g. NSW Psychologist's Registration Board
  10. eg. Australian Counseling Association and Psychotherapy and Counseling Federation of Australia
  15. Pietrini, P. (2003). Toward a Biochemistry of Mind? American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 1907-1908.
  16. Shorter, E. (1997). A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, p. 326. ISBN 978-0-47-124531-5
  17. Hauser, M.J. (Unknown last update). Student Information. Retrieved September 21, 2007, from
  18. National Institute of Mental Health. (2006, January 31). Information about Mental Illness and the Brain. Retrieved April 19, 2007,from

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