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What is a Psychologist?

The American Psychological Association (APA) is a national association providing governance and resources for not only researchers, scholars, and practitioners in psychology, but also the general public. 

The APA Definition of Psychology, Who We Are

Psychology is a diverse discipline, grounded in science, but with nearly boundless applications in everyday life. Some psychologists do basic research, developing theories and testing them through carefully honed research methods involving observation, experimentation, and analysis. Other psychologists apply the discipline's scientific knowledge to help people, organizations, and communities function better.

As psychological research yields new information, whether it's improved interventions to treat depression or how humans interact with machines, these findings become part of the discipline's body of knowledge and are applied in work with patients and clients, in schools, in corporate settings, within the judicial system, even in professional sports.

Psychology is a doctoral-level profession. Psychologists study both normal and abnormal functioning and treat patients with mental and emotional problems. They also study and encourage behaviors that build wellness and emotional resilience. Today, as the link between mind and body is well-recognized, more and more psychologists are teaming with other health care providers to provide whole-person health care for patients. 

How is Psychology Different from Other Fields? 

While significant overlap exists, there are differences between psychology and other social service fields, such as psychiatry, counseling, and social work. Often, the differences that emerge are a result of 1) education, 2) training, and 3) populations served. Professional organizations, like the American Psychological Associations, offer guidance to those interested in learning about the differences between professions. A non-exhaustive list is provided below.