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What is Counseling Psychology?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Counseling psychology describes the practice of helping people deal with problems in their personal or interpersonal lives. A counseling psychologist offers advice to help a patient make decisions that improve his or her behavior, and makes life more fulfilling and less stressful. Patients might seek help for a wide range of issues, from alcoholism to anger management, affecting their daily life. Counseling psychology differs from clinical psychology, which focuses more on research, teaching, and treating mental illnesses.

Patients often participate in counseling for emotional problems that upset healthy relationships at home or work. The counselor works with the patient to help him or her make better decisions and change behavior causing strife. Problems might stem from marital issues, child rearing concerns, or a simple inability to cope with stress. Generally, counseling psychology revolves around social issues and arming a patient with strategies to improve his or her quality of life.

Vocational psychology is a branch of counseling psychology that centers on work and career choices. This counselor commonly works with patients who are unfulfilled in their work environment to help make them happier. Patients might also seek counseling for interpersonal problems in the workplace that disrupt the patient’s emotional well-being, such as conflicts with a boss or coworkers.

Psychology is the science of human and animal behavior, which branched off into various specialties and methods of treatment that often overlap. A clinical psychologist generally treats mental disorders and diseases like depression or schizophrenia using psychotherapy. He or she might delve into the unconscious mind and examine how the past influences a person’s behavior or illness. Clinical psychologists sometimes cross over into counseling psychology to help a patient deal with death, divorce, eating disorders, or other emotional problems affecting the patient’s mental health.

Those who study counseling psychology usually need a master’s degree and license to treat patients. They are not commonly trained or educated in psychotherapy, and do not require a doctorate degree, as a clinical psychologist does. A counselor can work in private practice, schools, hospitals, or vocational career centers. Crisis intervention is another area of study related to counseling psychology.

School psychologists work with parents, teachers, and other school staff to address the needs of children with learning disabilities and those deemed gifted. They help a child with behavioral problems affecting his or her school performance, teaching the child new ways to cope. Counseling psychology in the school setting might also include monitoring the child’s educational plan and making recommendations based on the student’s emotional or behavioral issues.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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