What kind of psychologist?

Psychologists, like therapists, fall into several different categories in terms of the service they might offer, although most will perform assessments of behaviour. The assessments may look at behaviour in the particular area of expertise of the psychologist, although many overlap.

There are five main areas of expertise for psychology:

  1. Clinical
  2. Educational
  3. Forensic
  4. Counselling
  5. Health


Clinical psychologists constitute the largest group of individuals and can be split into further sub-categories. They are found most often in independent or group practices, hospitals, or clinics. They help mentally and emotionally distressed clients adjust to life and may assist medical and surgical patients in dealing with illnesses or injuries. Some clinical psychologists work in physical rehabilitation settings.


As the name suggests, educational psychologists are mainly involved in applying psychology to enhance behavioural and psychological health and well-being of young people who are experiencing problems within an educational setting (though not necessarily the classroom) with the aim of enhancing their learning.


Forensic psychologists play a critical role in the assessment of offenders and the provision of support and training for other staff, as well as consultancy. They also work with victims. Research is a further element of their work, as is presenting evidence in court and advising parole boards and mental health tribunals.


Counselling psychologists are a relatively new breed of professional applied psychologist. They are concerned with the integration of psychological theory and research with therapeutic practice. The practice of counselling psychology requires a high level of self-awareness and competence in relating the skills and knowledge of personal and interpersonal dynamics to the therapeutic context. Key tasks include assessment of mental health needs, risk assessment and psychological testing.


Health psychologists work in the field of applied psychology. Psychological principles are used to promote changes in people’s attitudes, behaviour and thinking about health and illness. The breadth of the discipline is quite extended, including the use of psychological theories and interventions to prevent damaging behaviours and understanding processes which can explain, predict and change health and illness behaviour.