About Psychology

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. Psychology is a science, in which scientific methodology is used for exploring the what, when, where, why, and how of human behavior. Many people erroneously equate psychology with psychotherapy. In fact, psychotherapy is only one small branch of psychology. Psychology has numerous sub-fields (the American Psychological Association lists more than 50 divisions of psychology). Some of the major areas are described below.

What does a "psychologist" do?

There are many subfields within psychology, and consequently there are numerous career paths for a person with a psychology background. Some people work in applied settings: for example, counseling people with behavioral problems, helping children in school, working in crisis centers, or trying to improve employee morale. Others work in academic settings: teaching psychology in high school or college, and/or conducting research on theoretical and practical issues in any of the many subfields of psychology. Still others work in business or government settings, applying their knowledge of human behavior. The skills and knowledge acquired through a psychology degree are useful for almost any career path! To find out more, please visit our Careers web page.

Major subfields of psychology

Clinical psychology

Clinical psychology focuses on assessment and treatment of people with serious mental, emotional, and behavior problems. This includes dealing with short-term crises, like difficulties resulting from adolescent rebellion, and dealing with more severe problems like schizophrenia. Some clinical psychologists are generalists who work with a wide variety of populations, while others work with specific groups like children, the elderly, or those with specific disorders.

Counseling psychology

Counseling psychology focuses on helping people to accommodate to change or to make changes in their lifestyle. For example, counseling psychologists might provide career guidance, help someone come to terms with the death of a loved one, help students adjust to college, or help people to stop smoking or overeating.

Cognitive psychology

Cognitive psychology deals with understanding how we think and use knowledge. This includes studying how we remember (or forget) things, perceive objects and sounds, learn new skills, understand written and spoken language, make decisions, and solve problems.

Developmental psychology

Developmental psychology explores psychological development from birth through old age, including how we develop physically, intellectually, socially, and emotionally over the lifespan.

Educational psychology

Educational psychology concentrates on how effective teaching and learning take place. Educational psychologists attempt to understand the basic aspects of learning, and develop materials and strategies for enhancing the learning process.

Forensic psychology

Forensic psychology applies psychological principles to legal issues. The focus is on the legal system, including jury decisions, eyewitness testimony, and the insanity defense. Forensic psychologists may serve as consultants to lawyers, or do research in criminal law.

Health psychology

Health psychology explores how biological, psychological, and social factors affect health and illness. This field examines topics such as stress management or maintaining diet and exercise programs.

Neuropsychology

Neuropsychology focuses on the relationships between brain systems and behavior, including the study of very basic processes (e.g., how brain cells function) and more readily observable phenomena (e.g. how drugs affect behavior).

Organizational psychology

Organizational psychology concentrates on the behavior of people in the workplace. This can involve assessing worker satisfaction, developing training programs, and assessing the abilities of prospective workers.

Social psychology

Social psychology studies how a person's mental life and behavior is shaped by interactions with other people. Social psychologists study such topics as attitude formation and change, aggression, prejudice, and interpersonal attraction.

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

If you would like more information about the psychology program at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact

Department co-chairs
Dr. Katherine Dunham (katherine.dunham@plattsburgh.edu)
Dr. Michael Morales (michael.morales@plattsburgh.edu)

Department secretaries
Ms. Pam LeClair (leclaipl@plattsburgh.edu)
Ms. Donna Vanderhoff (vanderdm@plattsburgh.edu)

Phone: (518) 564-3076
Toll-free Phone: (800) 441-7215
Fax: (518) 564-3397