About Psychology

What is psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of how people behave, learn, think, feel and respond. It provides useful information on peoples' emotions, personality, their perception, memories, intelligence, problem solving abilities, attention, motivation and the ways people act, react and interact with others.

What do psychologists do?

Psychologists work in a wide range of roles and settings including DHBs, Government agencies, e.g. Ministry of Education, Department of Corrections, Family Court, non-government organisations, private practice, kaupapa Māori contexts, in schools, with ACC clients and in academic settings etc.

Psychologists work with individuals, groups, families/whānau, providing assessments, therapy and other interventions to assist people to live life well. Some psychologists work with organisations to facilitate organisational change and others work with a focus on social change to alleviate poverty and other social justice issues. Others work in academic settings undertaking teaching and research.

It can sometimes be confusing about the differences between professionals working in mental health. For example, psychologists and psychiatrists both work in mental health and often work together. There are sometimes differences in the focus of their work and the way they work.

Psychologists focus their training on the scientific study of mental processes and behaviour and specialise in aspects of psychology in their postgraduate studies.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Psychiatrists use a range of treatments including medication and mainly work with people who have different types of mental illness.

Psychologists work with people who are mentally healthy and want to find ways of functioning better and they also work with those who have different types of mental illness. Psychologists are unable to prescribe medication but are skilled in using a range of other techniques to assist people to function better.

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How do you become a psychologist?

Psychologists have university qualifications in the science of psychology. A number of universities offer postgraduate psychology training programmes. Psychologists need to be registered with the New Zealand Psychologists Board to use the title “psychologist”. They work under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (2003). Psychologists are required to adhere to a Code of Ethics.

Learn more about a career in psychology.