The many branches of psychology that exist today cover the whole spectrum of mental life and human and animal behavior. The overall scope has extended to overlap with many other disciplines, including medicine, physiology, neuroscience, computer science, education, sociology, anthropology, and even politics, economics, and the law.
— Catherine Collin, The Psychology Book

Psychology Specialty Areas: includes professionals in the field of psychology and specialty areas in contemporary psychology, reflecting enormous diversity. (Hockenbury, 13) The method of psychology … is the method of observation and experiment. We learn human nature by observing how human beings act in all the various circumstances of life. (Pyle, 10) Those who work in the field of psychology try to give meaning to the questions, “What makes you tick?” and “How do you see the world?” These very simple ideas encompass many different and complicated topics. (Kleinman, 7)


Adolescent Psychology: field of psychology concerned with the normal and abnormal "behavior" of adolescents. It includes mental processes as well as observable responses. (MeSH) Includes "developmental psychology" research focusing on the adolescent years. (NCIt)

Biological Psychology: the study of the interrelationships of the biology and psychology in "cognitive" functioning, including intellectual, "memory," and related neurocognitive processes. (NCIt) Focuses on the relationship between behavior and the body’s physical systems. (Hockenbury, 13)

Child Psychology: the study of normal and abnormal behavior of children. (MeSH) The study of psychological, emotional, and perceptual changes that occur during (childhood). (Collin, 260) Includes developmental research focusing on the childhood years (NCIt)

Clinical Neuropsychology: a specialty in professional psychology that applies principles of "assessment" and intervention based upon the scientific study of human behavior as it relates to normal and abnormal functioning of the "central nervous system." The specialty is dedicated to enhancing the understanding of brain‐behavior relationships and the application of such knowledge to human problems. Clinical neuropsychologists address neurobehavioral problems related to acquired or developmental "disorders" of the "nervous system." The types of problems are extremely varied and include such conditions as "dementia," vascular disorders, "Parkinson's disease" and other neurodegenerative disorders, traumatic brain injury, "seizure" disorders, "learning" disabilities, neuropsychiatric disorders, infectious disease affecting the central nervous system, neurodevelopmental disorders, metabolic disease and neurological effects of medical disorders or treatment. (APA, Public Description of Clinical Neuropsychology)

Cognitive Neuropsychiatry: the interface between mental and physical disorders of the brain. (Ramachandran, 3)

Clinical Psychology: the branch of psychology concerned with psychological methods of recognizing and treating "behavior disorders." (MeSH) Studies the causes, treatment, and prevention of different types of psychological disorders, such as "anxiety" or "depression," "eating disorders," and chronic substance abuse (Hockenbury, 14) A general practice and health service provider specialty. Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose, predict, prevent and treat psychopathology, mental disorders and other individual or group problems to improve behavior adjustment, adaptation, personal effectiveness and satisfaction. What distinguishes clinical psychology as a general practice specialty is the breadth of problems addressed and of populations served. In "research," "education," "training" and practice, focuses on individual differences, abnormal behavior, and mental disorders and their prevention, and lifestyle enhancement. (APA, Public Description of Clinical Psychology) A clinical psychologist typically has a doctorate in psychology, which includes intensive training in treating people with psychological disorders. (Hockenbury, 14)

Psychologist: a specialist who can talk with patients and their families about emotional and personal matters, and can help them make decisions. (NCIt)

Cognitive Psychology: the branch of psychology that attempts to study and understand the way in which “cognitive” processes work. (Cardwell, 50) Focuses on the role of mental processes in how people process and remember information, develop language, solve problems, and think. (Hockenbury, 10) Behavioral and cognitive psychology is a specialty in professional psychology that reflects an experimental-clinical approach distinguished by use of principles of human learning and development and theories of cognitive processing to promote meaningful change in maladaptive human behavior and thinking. (APA, Public Description of Cognitive Psychology)

Comparative Psychology: the branch of psychology concerned with similarities or differences in the behavior of different animal species or of different races or peoples. (MeSH)

Counseling Psychology: aims to improve everyday functioning by helping people cope more effectively with challenging situations and solving problems in daily living. A related field to clinical psychology. (Hockenbury, 14) Counseling psychology is a general practice and health service provider specialty in professional psychology. It focuses on personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span and on emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental and organizational concerns. Counseling psychology centers on typical or normal developmental issues as well as atypical or disordered development as it applies to human experience from individual, family, group, systems and organizational perspectives. Counseling psychologists help people with physical, emotional and mental disorders improve well-being, alleviate distress and maladjustment, and resolve crises. In addition, practitioners in this professional specialty provide assessment, diagnosis and treatment of psychopathology. (APA, Public Description of Counseling Psychology)

Licensed Professional Counselor: (specialist who) gives advice and assistance to individuals with educational or personal problems. (MeSH) Holds at least a master’s degree in counseling, with training in assessment, counseling, and therapy techniques. Most states require licensure or certification. (Hockenbury, 549) Also referred to as 'counselor.'

Cross-Cultural Psychology: the branch of psychology that studies the effects of "culture" on behavior and mental processes. (Hockenbury, 13)

Educational Psychology: the branch of psychology concerned with psychological aspects of teaching and the formal learning process in school. (MeSH) Undertakes to discover those aspects of human nature most clearly related to education. (Pyle, 10) The study of how people of all ages “learn.” Educational psychologists help develop the instructional methods and materials used to train people in both education and work settings.  (Hockenbury, 13)

Experimental Psychology: the branch of psychology which seeks to learn more about the fundamental causes of behavior by studying various psychologic "phenomena" in controlled experimental situations. (MeSH) Describes research focused on such basic topics as sensory processes, principles of learning, "emotion,” and “motivation.” (Hockenbury, 13)

Family Psychology: a broad and general specialty in professional psychology founded on principles of systems theory with the interpersonal system of the "family" the focus of assessment, intervention and research. Examples of problems addressed are family relationship issues, parenting challenges, caregiver burden, work-family "stress," behavioral problems of children or adolescents, communication difficulties, (and) coordination of individual treatment across social systems. (APA, Public Description of Family Psychology) A marriage and family therapist usually holds a master’s degree, with experience in couple or family therapy. Many states require licensing (Hockenbury, 549)

Health Psychology: focuses on the role of psychological factors in the development, prevention, and treatment of illness. Studies how biological, behavioral, and social factors influence health, illness, medical treatment, and health-related behaviors. (Hockenbury, 13, 477)

Industrial and Organizational Psychology: the branch of applied psychology concerned with the application of psychologic principles and methods to industrial problems including selection and training of workers, working conditions, etc. (MeSH) Concerned with the relationship between people and work.  (Hockenbury, 14) Characterized by the scientific study of human behavior in organizations and the work place. Focuses on deriving principles of individual, group and organizational behavior and applying this knowledge to the solution of problems at work. (APA, Public Description of Industrial Psychology) Also referred to as 'I/O psychology.'

Ontology: the science or study of being; that part of “metaphysics” which relates to the nature or essence of being or existence. (Oxford) In information science, an explicit formal specification of how to represent the objects, concepts and other entities that are assumed to exist in some area of interest and the relationships among them. (NCIt)

Parapsychology: branch of psychology that deals with paranormal behavior and events such as "telepathy,"  "precognition," and "clairvoyance," which are not explicable by present day 'natural laws.' (MeSH)

Personality Psychology: examines individual differences and the characteristics that make each person unique, including how those characteristics originated and developed.  (Hockenbury, 13)

Psychiatry: the medical science that deals with the origin, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental disorders. (MeSH)

Psychiatric Nurse: holds an Registered Nursing (RN) degree and has selected psychiatry or mental health nursing as a special area. Typically works on a hospital psychiatric unit or in a community mental health center. (Hockenbury, 549)

Psychiatric Social Worker: holds a master’s degree in social work. Training includes an internship in a social service agency or mental health center. Most states require certification or licensing (Hockenbury, 549)

Psychiatrist: a medical doctor who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. (NCIt) Has a medical degree plus years of specialized training in the treatment of psychological disorders. Both clinical psychologists and psychiatrists can treat patients with psychological disorders. However, only psychiatrists can order medial procedures or prescribe medications. (Hockenbury, 14)

Psychoneuroimmunology: an interdisciplinary field that studies the interconnections among psychological processes, nervous and endocrine system functions, and the immune system. (Hockenbury, 486)

Psychopathology: the scientific study of the origins, symptoms, and development of psychological disorders (Hockenbury, 507)

Psychopharmacology: the scientific study of the effects that drugs have on behavior. (Cardwell, 197) Involves the application of psychopharmacological principles, scientific data and clinical practices to individual psychopathology and problems across a range of populations. It uniquely blends the scientific study of behavior, its biological basis and the interaction of medication with the latter, to produce acute and long term therapeutic changes in normal and abnormal functioning. (APA, Public Description of Psychopharmacology)

School Psychology: the branch of psychology concerned with the effects of group membership upon the behavior, attitudes, and beliefs of an individual. (MeSH) Focuses on designing programs that promote the intellectual, social, and emotional development of children, including children with special needs. A related field to educational psychology. (Hockenbury, 13) A general practice and health service provider specialty that is concerned with the science and practice of psychology with children, youth, families; learners of all ages; and the schooling process. The basic education and training of school psychologists prepares them to provide a range of psychological diagnosis, assessment, intervention, prevention, health promotion, and program development and evaluation services with a special focus on the developmental processes of children and youth within the context of schools, families and other systems. (APA, Public Description of School Psychology)

Somatic Psychology: a branch of psychology that tracks the body’s felt sensations as a way of addressing trauma. (Blakeslee, 214)

Sports Psychology: a proficiency that uses psychological knowledge and skills to address optimal performance and well-being of athletes, developmental and social aspects of sports participation, and systemic issues associated with sports settings and organizations. The American Psychological Association (APA) recognizes sport psychology as a proficiency acquired after a doctoral degree in one of the primary areas of psychology and licensure as a psychologist. This proficiency should not be confused with those who have earned a doctoral degree in sport psychology, but are not licensed psychologists. (APA, Public Description of Sport Psychology)