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What field of psychology most matches what I am interested in?


New Member
Feb 12, 2017
  1. Pre-Psychology
    I am a thirty year old male looking to make a career change. I was recently medically retired from the military after 8 year of service, the last two of which I spent a lot of time in my military's mental health system, including a six week stay at a private facility for combat veterans with PTSD out in Texas. It was a wonderful and profound experience actually.

    I credit mental health with saving my life. I was suicidal. I was self medicating with drugs. I want to give back, and I am very interested in the field of psychology, but I don't see myself being happy as primarily a clinical psychologist, although I absolutely appreciate the very hard work they do. Where I do see myself fitting in, rather contently, would be something like an academic research psychologist. From what I understand, and correct me if I'm wrong here, once I've completed my PhD and if I can secure a job at a university, I could divide my time between teaching graduate and undergraduate work and research experiments.

    This sounds great to me, and I have an idea of what kind of research I'd like to focus on but I'm not sure what specialty that correlates to in the graduate programs, or what undergraduate degree would be best for me. I'm hoping after you read what I'm interested in you could point me in the right direction? What really interests me is the relationship between the physiological brain and our consciousnesses, and how they affect each other, especially as it pertains to mental and physical health.

    If someone ingests a chemical, whether its in a food they eat or a drug they take, and it makes them feel a certain way, I wan't to know why. If someone meditates and it reduces their anxiety and anger, I want to know why. I find it fascinating when I come across a study that concludes that emotional stress can cause premature physical death, or that a psychedelic compound helped bring real comfort to a terminally ill cancer patient.

    If I begin with the end in mind, I see myself in the future as a part of a team using the scientific method to conduct experiments such as: People take a certain substance or are exposed to a certain external stimuli, or told to focus on a specific thought or emotion, and collect data on the changes in their brain physiologically with scans as well as recording their subjective experiences. To use a personal example, the SSRI's I take that help with my depression also heavily interfere with my libido and ability to function physiologically as I'm suppose to during sex with my spouse. This makes it very challenging for me to want to consistently take them. I would love to have a job for example researching why this happens so ultimately we can come up with better solutions such as a drug with less sexual side effects or a behavioral method to get better compliance with taking important medications.

    Thank you so much for your time and help.

    EDIT: I understand that I've touched on a lot of different field, I suffer from a variety is the spice of life mentality, but I know the deeper you go in education the more specialized it tends to get, which is why I'm trying to get some insight into what field best matches my perspective and interest... If I had to pick one thing specifically to study for the rest of my life it would be the affects of chemical interactions in the brain on our moods. I'm fascinated by how a healthy foods, regular exercise, and certain drugs (or the lack of these three things) can produce profound effects on our brain chemistry and our moods and influence the choices we make.
    Last edited:


    Psychologist, Academic Medical Center
    10+ Year Member
    Aug 2, 2010
    1. Psychologist
      A few points:
      1. You've described a fairly wide array of possible research interests representing, among others, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, behavioral neuroscience, and (yes) clinical psychology. Some of your interests would also fit well in academic psychiatry.
      2. In general, no matter which field/specialty you choose, it would be important to attend a solid undergraduate program where you have opportunities to get hands-on exposure to research, preferably in an area that interests you. The research part is essential.
      3. Consider that there are other ways of giving back that may lie outside the professional/occupational realm, and make sure your motivations are sufficient to fuel the lengthy training sequence that awaits you.
      4. I'm not giving medical advice, but the SSRI issue is well known and you probably have some more options. Talk to your doctor about it.
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      Full Member
      2+ Year Member
      Aug 10, 2016
        It sounds like you might be interested in neuropsych. Do you have an undergrad degree?

        If not, I would suggest earning a BA in psychology. You *could* earn one in a different subject, but psych will be most beneficial for admissions to a PhD program. Some undergrad programs allow you to specialize (aka take a few courses) in different areas, such as neuropsych, abnormal psych, I/O psych, etc.
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