Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology is a general practice and health service provider specialty in professional psychology. It focuses on how people function both personally and in their relationships at all ages. Counseling psychology addresses the emotional, social, work, school and physical health concerns people may have at different stages in their lives, focusing on typical life stresses and more severe issues with which people may struggle as individuals and as a part of families, groups and organizations. Counseling psychologists help people with physical, emotional and mental health issues improve their sense of well‐being, alleviate feelings of distress and resolve crises. They also provide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of more severe psychological symptoms.

Specialized Knowledge

Across all stages of development (i.e., childhood, adolescence, adulthood and older age), counseling psychologists focus on:

  • Healthy aspects and strengths of clients (whether being seen as individuals, couples, families, groups or organizations.

  • Environmental/situational influences (how cultural, gender and lifestyle issues shape people’s experiences and concerns).

  • Issues of diversity and social justice (e.g., advocacy). 

  • The role of career and work in peoples’ lives.

Problems Addressed

The problems addressed by counseling psychology are addressed from developmental (lifespan), environmental and cultural perspectives. They include, but are not limited to:

  • School and career/work adjustment concerns.

  • Making decisions about career and work, and dealing with school‐work‐retirement transitions.

  • Relationship difficulties‐including marital and family difficulties.

  • Learning and skill deficits.

  • Stress management and coping with negative life events.

  • Organizational problems.

  • Dealing with and adjusting to physical disabilities, disease or injury.

  • Personal/social adjustment.

  • The development of one’s identity.

  • Persistent difficulties with relating to other people in general.

  • Mental disorders.

Skills & Procedures Utilized

The procedures and techniques used within counseling psychology include, but are not limited to:

  • Individual, family and group counseling and psychotherapy.

  • Crisis intervention, disaster and trauma management.

  • Assessment techniques for the diagnosis of psychological disorders.

  • Programs/workshops that educate and inform the public about mental health, school, family, relationship and workplace issues so that problems can be prevented before they start or reduced before they get worse.

  • Consulting with organizations.

  • Program evaluation and treatment outcome (e.g., client progress).

  • Training.

  • Clinical supervision.

  • Test construction and validation.

  • Research methodologies for scientific investigations.

Population Served

Clients served by counseling psychologists include individuals, groups (including couples and families) and organizations. Counseling psychologists work with individual clients of all ages, such as children who have behavioral problems; late adolescents with educational and career concerns or substance abuse problems; adults facing marital or family difficulties, career changes, or overcoming disabilities; and older adults facing retirement. They work with groups to assist them in finding solutions to many of these same problems, as well as to improve the personal and interpersonal functioning of group members. Counseling psychologists also consult with organizations (e.g., businesses) and work groups to help provide a work environment in which people can succeed, and to enhance the ability of organizations to increase productivity and effectiveness.