What is a Psychologist?

A psychologist studies how we think, feel and behave from a scientific viewpoint and applies this knowledge to help people understand, explain and change their behaviour.

What Do Psychologists Do?

Psychologists engage in research, practice and teaching across a wide range of topics having to do with how people think, feel and behave. In general, the majority of psychologists work in five broad categories of employment: research, teaching, service provision, administration, and consulting. Many combine two or more of these categories. For example, a university professor usually teaches and conducts research; they may also be an administrator and a clinical psychologist providing help to clients. A master's level counselling psychologist may be a service provider and teach at a local college.

Their work can involve individuals, groups, families and as well as larger organizations in government and industry. Some psychologists focus their research on animals rather than people. Here are some of the kinds of topics towards which psychologists focus their research and practice:

  • mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias, etc.;
  • neurological, genetic, psychological and social determinants of behaviour;
  • brain injury, degenerative brain diseases;
  • the perception and management of pain;
  • psychological factors and problems associated with physical conditions and disease (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, stroke);
  • psychological factors and management of terminal illnesses such as cancer;
  • cognitive functions such as learning, memory, problem solving, intellectual ability and performance;
  • developmental and behavioural abilities and problems across the lifespan;
  • criminal behaviour, crime prevention, services for victims and perpetrators of criminal activity;
  • addictions and substance use and abuse (e.g. smoking, alcohol, drugs);
  • stress, anger and other aspects of lifestyle management;
  • court consultations addressing the impact and role of psychological and cognitive factors in accidents and injury, parental capacity, and competence to manage one’s personal affairs;
  • the application of psychological factors and issues to work such as motivation, leadership, productivity, marketing, healthy workplaces, ergonomics;
  • marital and family relationships and problems;
  • psychological factors necessary to maintaining wellness and preventing disease;
  • social and cultural behaviour and attitudes, the relationship between the individual and the many groups of which he or she is part (e.g. work, family, society); and
  • the role and impact of psychological factors on performance at work, recreation and sport.

Where Do Psychologists Work?

Some psychologists work primarily as researchers and faculty at universities and at governmental and non-governmental organizations. Others work primarily as practitioners in hospitals, schools, clinics, correctional facilities, employee assistance programs and private offices. Many psychologists are active in both research and practice.


Planning a Career in Psychology

Are you planning a career in psychology?  If yes, be sure to download Planning a Career in Psychology: A Canadian Perspective for University Bound and Beginning University Students.