What is the Difference Between Industrial Psychology and Clinical Psychology?

Confused about what in the world industrial psychology might be? Not surprising, since there are only a bajillion types of psychology out there. And to add to the confusion, industrial psychology has umpteen names: occupational psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, I-O psychology, work psychology, WO psychology, business psychology, etc. But despite the difficulties, we’ll tackle industrial psychology here anyway, and kill two birds with one stone by taking on clinical psychology, too.

Industrial Psychology

Industrial psychology is the study of behavior in the workplace. Industrial psychologists continually study the behavior and attitudes of employees in every major type of industry and then compile the latest findings and recommendations, making them available to employers. These psychologists show employers better methods of hiring, training and managing employees, as well as how to gain better feedback from employees. Industrial psychologists improve the performance, morale, well-being and safety of employees, which in turn contributes to the company’s bottom line.

Industrial psychologists also coach a company’s managers, demonstrating better methods of assessing and managing the talent of their employees to maximize their potential. This can help uncover hidden talent in the workforce, and it sometimes reveals that certain employees are better suited to a different job position than they currently work in.

Research Methods

Industrial psychologists use surveys, experiments, quasi-experiments and observational studies in their research of employees and organizations. Sources for their data include historical databases, human judgment, questionnaires, surveys and objective measures of work performance (such as sales volume figures). They use both quantitative and qualitative methods of research, sometimes in concert.

Performance Evaluations

Psychologists compile industry standards for employee performance and compare them to the performance of a company’s employees. They then coach the managers and employees on methods of improving performance. If performance is too low in certain areas, they might recommend setting up workshops or having employees attend class to improve performance, or they might recommend firing certain employees.

Hiring Practices

Industrial psychology can greatly improve the hiring practices of many companies. Psychologists first examine the duties and requirements of each job position and assess the skills and personality traits best suited for the position; they then determine the best places to advertise for these positions, as well as the best type of ads for luring those potential employees into the fold.

Industrial psychologists design knowledge tests and personality tests for potential employees to help determine the best candidates for each position. They also advise employers and managers on the best ways to conduct job interviews, and demonstrate how to systematically collect biographical data about the candidates.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychologists counsel and treat patients who have psychological problems or disorders. Clinical psychology is similar to counseling psychology, with the main difference being that clinical psychologists typically deal with patients who have more serious psychological problems than those treated by counseling psychologists. For example, counseling psychologists normally handle cases like marriage or career counseling, while clinical psychologists mostly deal with patients who have a serious psychological disorder and are likely to be institutionalized. Another difference is that most clinical psychologists work in clinics, hospitals or mental health institutions, while many counseling psychologists set up private practices.

Not all clinical psychologists work in counseling. Some of them work in research, consultation, courtroom testimony, teaching or administration.

Treatment Methods

Clinical psychologists use many of the same treatment methods as counseling psychologists—chief among them being various forms of psychotherapy. The vast majority of psychologists aren’t certified to prescribe or administer pharmaceuticals to patients, leaving that task to psychiatrists (who, unlike psychologists, have medical degrees). Clinical psychologists therefore often work hand-in-hand with psychiatrists in developing treatment plans for patients.

Here are a few of the treatment methods used in clinical psychology:

Cognitive therapy (CT) is based upon the theory that thoughts, feelings and behavior are interconnected, so clients can better themselves by correcting inaccurate thinking, problematic behavior and improper emotional responses. The client and therapist collaborate in identifying distortions in the client’s thought processes and beliefs, and work together in developing a road map to correcting those problem areas. There are many types of therapy used in cognitive therapy.

Behavioral therapy (BT) is a teaching method for helping clients cope with everyday life. It is designed to help change self-destructive habits and behaviors, eventually replacing them with good habits and behaviors. There are a wide variety of techniques used in BT, including role-playing, having discussions about coping mechanisms, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, focusing activities, positive reinforcement, journal writing and training in social skills. BT is commonly used for obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, social phobia, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) represents a wide variety of cognitive and behavioral therapies, each designed for specific ailments. CBT is particularly useful for clients with problems that are beyond their conscious control.

Applied relaxation technique is a common progressive muscle relaxation technique taught to clients to relieve panic attacks. It’s a type of BT.

Biofeedback-based treatments convey information about a patient’s bodily functions that are normally outside conscious control. Biofeedback is commonly used for treating insomnia and certain other ailments.

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