About Psychology and Psychologists


What is Psychology

Psychology is the study of behaviour, including the biological, cognitive, emotional, social and cultural determinants of behaviour. That is, how we think, feel and behave in our social and physical environments. It is impossible to consider productivity, innovation and societal development without placing human behaviour in all its complexity at the centre of the discussion.

Psychology is both a science and the application of that science.

The science of Psychology has been studying human behaviour and functioning for more than 125 years. It now spans three broad areas, as represented by the three research councils of Canada. It includes the biological determinants of behaviour such as the study of basic brain processes, memory, thought, perception, etc. (NSERC), the contribution of human behaviour across the continuum of health and health care (CIHR), and factors related to the workplace and society (SSHRC). Psychology is one of the few disciplines with such a broad scope of scientific interests, which allows it to act as a meeting ground and synthesizing agent for research from all three councils and from many disciplines.

The application of knowledge from the science of psychology to human problems has been developing for more than 100 years. The professional application of psychology includes the scientific evaluation and refinement of psychological treatments and methods. This integration of science and practice, into empirically-based practice, is a defining characteristic and notable strength of professional psychology. Psychologists each specialize in applying psychology in particular areas, such as clinical, counselling, forensic, health, industrial/organizational, neuropsychological or school psychology.

What is a Psychologist?

A psychologist studies how we think, feel and behave from a scientific viewpoint and applies this knowledge to help people understand, explain and change their behaviour.

A psychologist must meet the requirements set by the provincial psychological regulatory authority in order to use the title “psychologist”.

There are approximately 18,000 psychologists registered to practice in Canada, including over 500 in Nova Scotia. This makes psychologists the largest, regulated, specialized mental health care providers in the country – out numbering psychiatrists approximately 4:1.

The Role of Psychologists

Trained as scientists and practitioners, psychologists have made important and unique contributions to the understanding of mental health and mental illness as well to the treatments and systems best suited to help people live well in health and with illness. (CPA)

Psychology Training

Psychology courses and degrees are the most popular in Canadian universities.Psychological knowledge is highly valued by society. The social sciences and humanities continue to be the most popular choices of Canadian students in the highly competitive marketplace of university career options. Human resource data that tracks employability and career paths show that psychology graduates of all levels and social science and humanities graduates in general are successful in the highly competitive Canadian employment market.Psychology Education in Nova Scotia

To be registered as a psychologist in NS one must have a graduate degree in psychology from a program that requires an undergraduate degree in psychology (or equivalent courses in psychology) as part of the entrance requirement.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Psychologist?

Overall, it takes approximately five to eight years after receiving a bachelor’s degree to obtain a Ph.D. in psychology. A master’s degree usually takes two to three years to complete, followed by an additional four to six years for a doctoral (Ph.D., Psy.D.) degree.

Psychologist or Psychiatrist: What’s the Difference?

 Many clinical psychologists have a Doctoral level degree in Psychology, after having obtained a Bachelors degree & Master’s degree in Psychology. This is up to 10 years of university education
and training. Psychiatrists have a general medical degree, then advanced training in psychiatry (4 years residency after the M.D. degree).

Both clinical psychologists and psychiatrists provide mental health therapy and other services. Often psychologists focus on learning and environmental factors, and psychiatrists focus on biological factors.

Psychologists and psychiatrists provide some different types of service. Psychologists do psychological testing with well-researched tests; psychiatrists typically do not. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication, Psychologists cannot.

Where Do Psychologists Work?

Psychologists work in clinics, correction facilities, hospitals, rehabilitation centres, schools, universities and in private practice. They use tests and other assessment methods to clarify problems, diagnose and provide therapy for psychological and emotional disorders, help clients manage physical illnesses and disorders, consult with other professionals, plan and implement research and apply theory relating to behaviour and mental processes. Many psychologists are active in both research and practice.

What Do Psychologists Do?

Psychologists engage in research, practice and teaching across a wide range of topics having to do with how people think, feel and behave. Their work can involve individuals, groups, families and as well as larger organizations in government and industry. Some psychologists focus their research on animals rather than people.

Psychological Research & Practice:

  • Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, phobias, etc.
  • Addictions and substance use and abuse (e.g., smoking, alcohol, drugs).
  • Marital and family relationships and problems.
  • Neurological, genetic, psychological and social determinants of behaviour.
  • Brain injury, degenerative brain diseases.
  • The perception and management of pain.
  • Psychological factors and problems associated with physical conditions and disease (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, stroke).
  • Psychological factors and management of terminal illnesses such as cancer.
  • Cognitive functions such as learning, memory, problem solving, intellectual ability and performance.
  • Developmental and behavioural abilities and problems across the lifespan.
  • Criminal behaviour, crime prevention, services for victims and perpetrators of criminal activity.
  • Stress, anger and other aspects of lifestyle management.
  • Court consultations addressing the impact and role of psychological and cognitive factors in accidents and injury, parental capacity, and competence to manage one’s personal affairs.
  • The application of psychological factors to work such as motivation, leadership, productivity, marketing, healthy workplaces, ergonomics.
  • Psychological factors necessary to maintaining wellness and preventing disease.
  • Social and cultural behaviour and attitudes, the relationship between the individual and the many groups of which he or she is part (e.g. work, family, society).
  • The role and impact of psychological factors on performance at work, recreation and sport.
  • Evaluation of treatment effectiveness • Facilitating adherence to health interventions.