What is Abnormal Psychology?

abnormal psychAbnormal psychology is a field of psychology that looks at thoughts and actions outside of normal thoughts and actions. Sometimes called deviant thoughts and behaviors, the term may also include signs and symptoms of certain mental disorders. Those working in the field generally have a bachelor’s degree in psychology as well as an advanced graduate or doctoral degree. Though you might take some classes on abnormal behavior in college, you’ll want to learn more about the topic before deciding whether you want to concentrate on this topic in graduate school.

What Do Professionals Study?

Professionals working in this field look at abnormal and deviant thoughts or behaviors that are different from the standard or normal way of thinking and acting. They typically look at two different categories: maladaptive and adaptive. Maladaptive behaviors indicate that there is something wrong with the individual’s brain that makes he or she act in that way. Adaptive behaviors are learned behaviors. For example, a child may act sullen and secretive because the child’s parents instilled in he or she that they won’t tolerate loud noises or normal behaviors.

Where Do They Work?

Those who study abnormal behavior work in a variety of medical settings, clinical facilities and other offices. Some work in substance abuse treatment centers and help addicts overcome the emotional or mental issues that led to addiction, while others work in hospitals to assist patients brought into the emergency room. They also work in community health centers, mental health institutions and private practices. Some may also work in the criminal or forensics field. These professionals work in jails, prisons and detention centers to treat criminals with mental issues. Some professionals also work in research settings and look at how different factors can lead to abnormal behaviors and thoughts.

Treatments They Offer

The treatments that abnormal psychology professionals offer vary based on their specialization. Behavior therapy is one of the more common treatments and involves changing the way the brain responds to different stimuli, including people, places and objects. Psychoanalytic therapy is another popular option. Originally developed by Freud, this type of behavior looks at how things patients encountered as children can affect them as adults. They may also rely on cognitive behavior therapy, which requires that they help patients learn how to change the way they think and how their actions can change their thought patterns.

Salary and Career Details

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics includes abnormal psychologists in the same category as other psychologists. The BLS found that most jobs in the field require a graduate degree and that workers must complete an extensive internship or residency requirements. Those interested in working in the field will find that the median salary among all professionals is more than $69,000 a year or over $33 an hour. The BLS also estimates that the psychology field will grow by a rate of 12 percent by the end of 2022, which means that the field will add nearly 18,000 new jobs.

Psychology is the study of humans and their behaviors, thoughts and actions, but there are a number of offshoots in this field that focus on one specific type of psychology. Abnormal psychology looks at thoughts, actions, behaviors and emotions that are not standard and what causes people to react in different ways.