Psychology is one of the branches of Social Sciences that focuses on the study and understanding of the human mind and its behaviour. Psychologists also attempt to explore mental functions in individual and social behaviours, as well as the biological and cognitive processes that accompany them. Psychology can be divided into two categories, research and applied psychology. Moreover, the field of Psychology has a plethora of branches and specialties, the most common and known are clinical, counselling, and educational psychology.
Regardless of their specialization, research-oriented Psychologists use their knowledge and skills to conduct experiments and develop theories and parameters based on results and observation in order to further develop the academic field of Psychology with new discoveries. Applied Psychologists, on the other hand, use their skills and the theoretical knowledge obtained by the research performed by their colleagues to directly help individuals by assessing and evaluating their problems.
A common misconception about Psychologists is that all of them engage in clinical or counselling Psychology. While it is true that many Psychologists use counselling and psychotherapy, this is just a small group and just a couple of branches in the larger domain that is applied Psychology, which includes areas like pediatric, scholar, occupational, and clinical Psychology.
Another common mistake is to use “Psychologist” and “Psychiatrist” as interchangeable terms. While they share some common goals, the relief of mental issues, their training, views, and methodologies are completely different. The main distinction is that Psychiatrists are licensed Physicians, and must, therefore, undergo medical training at an accredited institution. They use the medical model to assess mental health problems and are licensed to prescribe medications to their patients.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Psychologists are required to complete.
- Counselling patients in individual or group sessions to assess their problems, help them understand and deal with situations and crises, and improve their mental health:
- Collecting information about patients through interviews, case histories, and observation techniques;
- documenting patient information, including session notes, progress, recommendations, and treatment plans;
- using various psychological methods (e.g. psychotherapy, hypnosis, behaviour modification, and play therapy) to gain a better understanding of the patient’s issues;
- consulting reference materials (e.g. textbooks, manuals, and other cases) to identify symptoms;
- diagnosing psychological, emotional, and behavioural issues;
- developing therapeutic and treatment plans based on observations, as well as on patient’s data and needs;
- providing advice to patients about conflict and problem resolution techniques;
- discussing treatment progress and problems with patients; and
- evaluating results of treatment plans and counselling sessions.
- Liaising with other health professionals and colleagues regarding therapies, treatments, counselling resources and techniques, and sharing occupational information:
- Referring patients to other specialists and colleagues when needed;
- consulting with or providing consultation to other Doctors, Therapists, or colleagues regarding patients;
- sharing research findings by publishing papers and holding professional conferences; and
- keeping up-to-date on the latest advancements, therapies, and techniques in their field.
- Providing counselling services and advice to companies, educational and outreach programs, schools, social service agencies, and to the general public:
- Administering and interpreting psychological tests to assess intelligence, aptitudes, abilities, and interests;
- providing occupational, educational, and vocational advice to students and consultation to their relatives and Teachers regarding students’ needs, learning styles, and special requirements;
- evaluating possible candidates for a job in a company; and
- providing advice to individuals and communities on problem resolution techniques.
- Examining, assessing, and diagnosing behavioural, emotional, and mental issues in patients.
- Helping patients manage mental illnesses and disorders.
- Counselling individuals and groups on effective personal, social, and vocational development and adjustment.
- Planning and applying therapy and treatment programs.
- Using standard psychological tests for assessments.
- Formulating hypotheses and experimental designs on patient’s conditions.
- Reviewing literature and counselling with colleagues to get a better understanding of a patient’s condition.
- Providing consultation services to organizations and schools.
The average Psychologist salary in Canada is $92,624 per year or $47 per hour. This is around 2.8 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $65,000 while most experienced workers make up to $130,000. These results are based on 302 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Outstanding knowledge of psychological studies and theories:
- Being able to conduct scientific experiments and research on psychological data;
- using tools for collecting and sorting data and findings from experiments and research; and
- being able to analyze and document data.
- Strong interpersonal, communication, and assessment skills:
- Communicating clearly and confidently, both in writing and verbally, in order to create a communicative and transparent, yet confidential, environment with patients;
- expressing genuine interest on patients’ thoughts, opinions, and background;
- easily and efficiently identifying patients’ needs and issues (e.g. behavioural problems, mental disorders, and cognitive difficulties);
- being an active listener and displaying a strong sense of empathy and compassion; and
- displaying strong rapport building, as well as the inherent ability to make others feel cared about.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills:
- Being able to translate ideas into practical goals;
- using creativity and imagination to develop new insights and to apply new solutions to problems; and
- handling potentially adversarial situations using a calm, tactful, discreet, and effective approach that promotes peer mediation, as well as conflict resolution.
- Intuition and decision-making skills:
- Being able to exercise great judgment, redirecting patients to appropriate resources as needed.
- Organizational and time management skills:
- Strategically structuring and customizing counselling approach;
- prioritizing and planning work activities so as to use time efficiently while managing a high volume, diverse workload; and
- multitasking; being able to work under pressure in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.
- Exceptional professionalism and strong work ethic:
- Being trustworthy enough to handle sensitive/confidential information.
- High levels of flexibility and responsiveness.
The field of Psychology has abundant job opportunities, but the competition is fierce and the requirements are quite steep. Provincial regulations state different levels of academic preparation for Psychologists to be able to practice their profession. Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia require a doctoral degree in Psychology in order to use the title of Psychologist and practice the career professionally. In Prince Edward Island, a doctoral degree is necessary to work and practice Psychology freely, although a master’s degree is sufficient to work in some institutions and agencies.
In most jurisdictions, Psychology students are required to go through a period of supervised consultations and practical experience with an accredited Psychologist in order to obtain their licence. Furthermore, aspirants are required to take and pass the written Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). The EPPP test consists of eight areas of psychological practice and is presented in a multiple-choice question format. The exam is over 800 points and a minimum of 500 points is required to pass and qualify for the independent practice of Psychology.
All Canadian provinces and territories require Psychologists to be registered in their respective regulatory bodies as well as their Professional Association for Psychologists. The requirements to be registered in each can vary from one province or territory to the other, as well as the laws and regulations that all Psychologist must adhere to.
Once all these requirements are met, Psychologists may opt to open their own practice independently or in small groups of collaborators. Psychologists may also work in certain institutions and companies as part of their staff. Some of these include schools, universities, and human resources departments in large companies. In order to apply for these, a Psychologist must not only be properly certified and registered, but may be required to have 1 or 2 years of previous work experience. These can be obtained by doing internships, volunteer work, or academic research to back their knowledge of the field.