What is Psychology?

What is Psychology?

The discipline of psychology is concerned with mental processes (like learning, reasoning, motivation & emotion) and behaviour, and the relationship between these processes. The study of psychology is concerned with how people feel, think, learn, understand, perceive, act and interact with others.

This understanding allows psychologists to help people with emotional and behavioural difficulties within a number of contexts including individual psychotherapy, family and group psychotherapy, as well as therapeutic interventions within organisational contexts.

Mental health symptoms commonly occur over the life course, and research suggests that at least one in six people will experience a mental health problem that requires professional help. The majority of mental health problems are treatable, with research suggesting that early intervention results in the most preferable outcomes.

It may seem difficult to speak to a psychologist about personal issues or things that are hard to express. However, psychologists and registered counsellors are trained professionals who understand these difficulties and can help you in this regard. The psychologist will explain at the outset what can be expected during the consultation, as well as issues relating to confidentiality. Consultations with a psychologist can help you to feel better, and think and act more effectively in your situation.

Currently, psychologists are registered with the HPCSA in the following categories: Clinical; Counselling; Educational; Industrial/Organisational and Research. Registered counsellors and Psychometrists are also psychology professionals registered with HPCSA.

Psychologists can assist in the following areas:
  • Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and others
  • Trauma and stress related problems
  • Substance use related problems and addictive behaviours
  • Mental health problems in children and adolescents including problems of behaviour, emotions, interpersonal difficulties, bullying etc.
  • Problems related to learning, scholastic issues, career counselling and guidance.
  • Psychological issues relating to work stress and occupational issues.
  • Forensic mental health examinations which include specialised mental health assessments for court and legal purposes.
  • Help with adjustment to physical health problems and chronic diseases.
  • Help with relationship issues and conflict
  • Administration, interpretation and reporting on tests of intelligence, personality, interest, wellness, cognitive and neuropsychological functioning.
Where can I expect to find psychology professionals?

Psychologists in private practice generally work within an area of interest or speciality. It is important to establish that your need fits their field of specialisation. A good way to ascertain whether there will be a good fit between you and the psychologist is to contact the psychologist and briefly outline your problem.

A keyword search in the PsySSA directory can be helpful to identify a relevant psychology professional in your area. Many psychologists work in private practices and are available to assist those who belong to medical aid schemes or who can afford private health care.

Some psychologists are employed at academic institutions where they teach psychology to undergraduate and graduate students. Research psychologists are employed in academic institutions and research based organisations, however, they are not generally involved in the treatment of mental health problems.

There are a number of psychologists working in government health facilities who provide a range of mental health services to the public. Psychologists are also employed in the Department of Education where they provide psychological services to learners. In addition, psychologists are employed in other government departments such as Correctional services, the South African Police Services and others.

The world of work utilises psychologists (such as Industrial Psychologists) to optimise organisational and employee functioning. Some psychologists are employed in human resources departments as well as in the area of employee wellness.

In addition; psychology professionals work in Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’)s, Non-profit Organisations (NPO’s) and the like.

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