Psychologists and Psychology – how and why do they work?

We’ve regularly mentioned our team of highly trained expert psychologists and how they can help, but we’re conscious that we’ve never explained exactly what their field of expertise actually is.  So, at the risk of over-simplifying what is in fact a vast topic, here’s a brief summary which we hope you will find useful.

A good place to start is the British Psychological Society (BPS) who define psychology as the scientific study of human mind and behaviour: how we think, feel, act and interact individually and in groups. Psychology is a science and psychologists study human behaviour by observing, measuring and testing, then arriving at conclusions that are rooted in sound scientific methodology.

One of the interesting components of this definition is that it is a science i.e. the techniques and methodology used, and the conclusions drawn, are based upon logic.  We recognise of course that not all of the problems that we encounter can be solved by logic alone – in fact often logic seems to be the last place where we feel that we might find an answer – yet there is no doubt that it can play a part.

How a psychologist can help

There is a huge range of areas where psychology can help, including:

  • Helping people to overcome depression, stress, trauma or phobias
  • Easing the effects of parental divorce on children
  • Speeding up recovery from brain injury
  • Helping to stop or prevent bullying at school or in the workplace
  • Ensuring that school pupils and students are being taught in the most effective way
  • Making sure that people are happy at work and perform to the best of their abilities
  • Helping the police, courts and prison service to perform more effectively
  • Helping athletes and sports people to perform better

The thinking is that many of the challenges we face in life are rooted in our behaviour – so if we can understand the behaviour and what causes it, we can help to meet the challenges.

Branches of psychology

Any attempt to explain why humans think and behave in the way that they do will inevitably be linked to one or another branch of psychology. The different disciplines of psychology are extremely wide-ranging. They include:

  • Clinical psychology
  • Cognitive psychology: memory
  • Cognitive psychology: intelligence
  • Developmental psychology
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Occupational psychology
  • Social psychology

What all these different approaches to psychology have in common is a desire to explain the behaviour of individuals based on the workings of the mind. And in every area, psychologists apply scientific methodology. They formulate theories, test hypotheses through observation and experiment, and analyse the findings with statistical techniques that help them identify important findings.

How the psychologist works

Most commonly, the psychologist will use therapy (often referred to as psychotherapy). There are many different styles of therapy, but the psychologist will choose the type that best addresses the person’s problem and best fits the patient’s characteristics and preferences.

Some common types of therapy are cognitive-behavioural, interpersonal, humanistic, psychodynamic, or a combination of a few therapy styles.

Therapy can be for an individual, couples, family or other group. Some psychologists are trained to use hypnosis, which research has found to be effective for a wide range of conditions including pain, anxiety and mood disorders.

And to finish – 10 interesting facts about psychology

Psychology has a big impact on all different areas of life, from education and health, to the economy and crime. Below are some interesting facts that you might not know about psychology:

  1. Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour. It is both a thriving academic discipline and a vital professional practice.
  2. British psychological research was fundamental in challenging the view that autism resulted from poor parenting and has given us clearer understanding of autism and led to more appropriate care and support systems (Baron-Cohen, Leslie & Frith, 1985).
  3. A British psychologist, C.S. Myers, introduced the term ‘shell-shock’ during World War One. This condition is now widely known as post-traumatic stress disorder (Myers, 1915).
  4. British psychological research has contributed to our understanding of how to encourage people to participate in recycling schemes (Nigbur, Uzzell, Lyons & Muckle, 2005).
  5. Many manufacturers of children’s buggies and pushchairs are now selling more rear-facing designs following psychological research showing the importance parent-child communication helps in relieving infant stress (Zeedyk, 2008).
  6. Research by British psychologists on aircraft cockpit design has led to a reduction in air accidents (Craik, 1940).
  7. The design of British coins was based upon psychological research into which shapes are easiest for blind people to identify (Bruce et al., 1983; Bruce & Hellawell, 1988).
  8. Psychological research on interviewing has led to the use of video recordings of child witnesses in court (Davies et al., 1995).
  9. Psychological research on the accuracy of eye witness testimony has led to changes in the way evidence is obtained and used (Gudjonsson, 2003; Holliday et al., 2008; Loftus, 2005)
  10. Psychological research on how to communicate information the benefits and side effects of medicines to patients has led to significant changes in the wording on their packaging (Berry, 2006; Berry et al., 2002, 2003, 2006).

We hope that you’ve found this brief introduction interesting and useful.  If you have any questions on psychology – how it works and how we might be able to help you – please ask us.

We are here to help you

All Vivamus Psychologists are registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) and hold a practising certificate through the British Psychological Society (BPS) and are bound by the Society’s code of conduct and ethical principles.

If you would like to discuss anything that you’ve read in this article in greater detail, would like additional information, find out how we can help you, or arrange a consultation, please contact us:

by phone                       07797 952 950 or 07900 285 561

or email                        info@vivamuspsychologists.co.uk

Your complete confidentiality will of course be respected at all times.

In a 2014 survey by the BACP, 69% of people think the world would be a better place if people talked about their feelings more!