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. Psychologists have expertise in all aspects of psychological functioning, including cognitive, emotional, behavioural, spiritual and intellectual dimensions. Psychologists assess, advise and assist people to improve their life adjustment and functioning.
Psychologists apply their expertise to a broad range of issues and clients. Their clients include individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The settings in which psychologists offer their services are diverse, including schools, health centers/clinics and hospitals, community and sports organizations, the workplace, police and defence services, research institutes, as well as private offices.
For further information about psychologists and the practice of psychology, please refer to the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta or the Canadian Psychological Association.
The scope of practice for the profession of psychology is set out in Schedule 22, Section 3 of the HPA. In their practice, psychologists do one or more of the following:
(a) assess, diagnose, treat, guide and support persons or groups of persons in order to enhance development, effective living and quality of life or to prevent, remedy or ameliorate mental, emotional, cognitive, behavioural and interpersonal difficulties;
(b) teach, supervise or consult in the practice of psychology;
(b.1) manage and conduct research in the science, techniques and practice of psychology;
(c) provide restricted activities authorized by the regulations.
Psychologists engage in research, practice (assessment and intervention) and teaching across a wide range of topics having to do with how people think, feel and behave. Their work can involve individuals, groups, families and as well as larger organizations in government and industry. They work with clients of all ages with many specializing in one area (i.e. pediatrics, adult, geriatrics). Some of the kinds of topics towards which psychologists focus their research and practice are as follows:
- mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias, etc.;
- neurological, genetic, psychological and social determinants of behaviour;
- psychological determinants of health and psychological factors that contribute to health and disease management;
- role of psychological factors in preventing disease and maintaining physical health;
- rehabilitation and adjustment to disability and chronic illness;
- brain injury, degenerative brain diseases;
- perception and management of pain;
- relationship between psychological factors and physical conditions and illness (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, stroke);
- management of psychological aspects of terminal illnesses and end-of-life care;
- cognitive functions (e.g., learning, memory, problem solving, intellectual ability);
- developmental and behavioural abilities and problems across the lifespan;
- criminal behaviour, crime prevention, and services for victims and perpetrators of criminal activity;
- addictions, substance use and abuse (e.g. smoking, alcohol, prescription and recreational drugs);
- stress, anger and other aspects of lifestyle management;
- court consultations on the role of psychological factors in legal matters (e.g., accidents and injury, parental capacity, competence to manage one’s personal affairs);
- psychology in the workplace (e.g. motivation, leadership, productivity, marketing, healthy workplaces, ergonomics);
- marital and family relationships and problems;
- social and cultural behaviours and attitudes;
- relationship between the individual and the many groups of which they are part of (e.g. work, family, society); and
- psychological factors related to performance at/in work, school, recreation and sport.
Where Do Psychologists Work?
Some psychologists work primarily as researchers and faculty at universities and at governmental and non-governmental organizations. Most work primarily as practitioners in hospitals, schools, clinics, correctional facilities, employee assistance programs and private offices. Others works as consultants to corporations and various organizations. Many psychologists are active in research, teaching and practice.