What is educational psychology?

And how does it differ from clinical, counselling and industrial psychology? 

All psychologists start out by learning the same basic theories about human personality and development, the kinds of emotional, relational and behavioural problems that people might encounter across their life-span, and the many psychological theories that underpin the various psycho-therapies that are available. Along the road of studying for a professional qualification, (at least a Masters’ degree), psychologists have to choose what kind of people and spheres they want to work with, and the Health Professions Council of South Africa requires psychologists to register in one specific category which represents the kind of practical training and work experience they have had – this is called a “scope of practice”. Clinical psychologists, for example, usually do an internship in a hospital or psychiatric clinic, where they gain experience working with more serious mental illnesses as well as the regular adjustment issues that many people go through.

Educational psychologists are trained to approach psychological problems through the lens of growth and development, and so they usually intern in some kind of educational or higher educational setting (like a Student Counselling Centre). They are more than “school psychologists” because they are trained to recognise and work with all kinds of social, emotional and behavioural challenges that hinder growth and learning across the lifespan. They are trained in research and psychometric assessment and can devise interventions at the individual, family and organisational levels. Some educational psychologists choose to specialise in barriers to learning or subject/career choice, whilst others work with a broader areas of growth and personal development, such as coaching (positive psychology) and adult career ownership, which has become one of my passions.

In addition, educational psychologists enhance the vocational development of children and adults. With regards to individual adults, the educational psychologist can provide expert knowledge and skills with regards to learning and developmental difficulties across the lifespan. Furthermore, there is an emphasis to promote the well-being of families, groups, organisations and communities. 

HPCSA Guidelines for scope of practice of Educational Psychologists 2017.