Difference between Applied Psychology and Clinical Psychology

December 2023

Psychology and human behaviour and their study is the backbone of our study, affecting almost everything in our society. These disciplines help organisations and leaders strategise real-world solutions to some of the biggest problems humanity faces. They not only help us understand human behaviour and improve mental health of groups and communities, but also help us in understanding and enhancing relationships, inform public policy, boost business effectiveness, and drive research and innovation. 

Given its importance for our society, psychology has been greatly studied and divided into various disciplines. As a career, psychology allows individuals to make a positive impact through various roles in clinical settings, education, research, government, and businesses. Some of the most widely discussed distinctions of psychology are applied and clinical psychology. In this post, we are going to dive into the difference between clinical and applied psychology, their importance, and scope. Let’s get started.

What is Applied and Clinical Psychology

Psychology, as defined by the American Psychological Association , is “the scientific study of the behaviour of individuals and their mental processes.” It studies how people’s brains work, which helps us understand human behaviour better. It is usually divided into two fields of study- Applied psychology and clinical psychology. 


As is obvious by the name, Applied psychology deals with the application of psychological theories and principles to help solve real-world problems faced by businesses or industries. It is focused on seeking solutions to solve problems with human behaviour. It utilises psychological research insights and applies them to influence  business, policy, industries, etc.


Clinical psychology, on the other hand, revolves around the clinical side of psychology such as diagnosing and treating mental health,emotional, and behavioural disorders on an individual level. It involves working directly with individuals in a clinical setting rather than a group of people or community.


Difference between Applied and Clinical Psychology


Applied psychology and clinical psychology might be easy to confuse since they sound very similar but are very different. Even though both applied psychology and clinical psychology seek to understand human behaviour, the difference lies in the way each field is practised.


Applied Psychology deals with the strategic practical application of psychological principles and theories and allows individuals to utilise these principles to address real-world challenges. This enables them to enhance the functioning of businesses, industries, and organisations. The setting in which it is practised are usually diverse such as  education, business, and community development. 


For example, an applied psychologist may be hired in a corporate setting to conduct a comprehensive assessment of employee well-being, and then design and implement targeted interventions to help employees manage stress and workload, enhance their productivity and motivation. The psychologist in this case helps foster a healthier workplace culture.

On the contrary, clinical psychology is the specialised field of psychology that is usually practised in a clinical setting such as hospitals or private practice to assess, diagnose and treat various mental health and emotional disorders. Think of it as the field of psychology that usually comes to mind when you think of going to a psychologist or a therapist. Clinical psychologists uses their knowledge, experience and evidence-based interventions to help families or individuals with any form of  psychological


For example, if someone is struggling with depression, anxiety attacks, or any such form of mental health problems, they would go to  a clinical psychologist who would help them with their mental well being through therapy, conducting assessments to understand their issues and the root causes of their problem and then provide therapy such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).


In short, while  applied psychology deals with solving practical problems and issues, clinical psychology focuses on understanding and treating mental health issues and any form of psychological distress.

Scope of Applied and Clinical Psychology in India


Both applied and clinical psychology has a vast scope in India. In a country like India, which has seen a tremendous rise in the number of mental disorders cases both among young and adolescents, applied and clinical psychology are needed more than ever before. Both of these fields offer diverse career opportunities in India, across various sectors such as corporate, education, healthcare, and social services. Moreover, since mental health and its importance is getting more recognised in India, there is also an increased demand for skilled psychologists. Thus, both of these fields are rewarding and exciting fields to pursue.

Scope of Applied Psychology


Applied psychologists find a lot of opportunities In the corporate sector because the number of organisations and workspaces focusing on the mental health of their employees is increasing day-by-day. These applied psychologists are in great demand since they can efficiently help organisational settings to enhance employee well-being, organisational development, and performance enhancement through their targeted interventions. For example, employee assistance programs, stress management training, leadership development, etc.


The scope of applied psychology is also vast in the education sector. It can contribute to schools, colleges, and educational institutions by providing counselling services to students, conducting assessments for learning disabilities, and designing strategies to promote positive mental health and academic success.


In healthcare, applied psychologists can provide holistic care to patients in close collaboration with medical professionals. Hospitals, rehabilitation centres, and community health programs, can benefit from the psychological support of applied psychologists and help patients cope better with chronic illnesses, disabilities, and lifestyle-related disorders.


Social welfare initiatives are also greatly benefitted with the field of applied psychology. Experts in applied psychology can contribute to social services by addressing issues such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and child welfare. They can also help policy makers and leaders to design and implement intervention programs, conduct research, and advocate for policy changes to improve the mental health and well-being of marginalised populations.


Scope of Clinical Psychology in India


Since the demand of psychologists and mental health professionals is increasing in India, clinical psychology has a huge scope for those wishing to pursue a career in clinical practise. Students can find promising and rewarding work opportunities in psychiatric hospitals, and mental health clinics, and can offer assessments, diagnosis, and treatment for various mental health conditions. Thus clinical psychology contributes to providing psychotherapy, counselling, and psychoeducation to individuals, couples, and families.


It is also critical to hospitals and healthcare facilities. It is an important element of multidisciplinary healthcare teams in hospitals and healthcare facilities. Moreover, with a vast population and huge diversity, the needs and issues regarding mental health in India are also diverse which require thorough research and sturdy. This means that clinical psychology also has a huge scope in research and academia. 

Plus, it also finds its way to improve community mental health. The principles of clinical psychology are integral to community mental health initiatives, especially in rural and underserved areas. The field can help experts provide outreach services, conduct awareness campaigns, and train community health workers to address mental health stigma and improve access to care.

Importance of Applied and Clinical Psychology


Both clinical and applied psychology are crucial pillars of psychology and their importance in addressing psychological needs and promoting overall well-being cannot be overstated . Let us discuss the importance of both these fields of study:

Importance of Applied Psychology


Applied Psychology helps us address real-world challenges across a wide range of domains such as industries, corporates, education and businesses Through psychological principles and evidence based theories, it  offers psychological solutions to practical problems, thus helping us understand human behaviours and enhance efficiency and effectiveness.


It also allows us to enhance performances of  both individuals and organizations.with the help of  psychological principles. Applied psychologists can utilise their expertise to optimise performance at individual and organisational levels and help them achieve peak performance.


And it’s not only about understanding psychology and problem solving in a practical context, it can also help us promote well being, communication skills, and enhancing work-life balance through targeted interventions for healthier and happier individuals and communities.


Importance of Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychology focuses on mental health challenges on an individual level and using these principles, experts can provide mental Health Expertise and efficiently address mental health challenges, offer expert assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for a wide range of mental health and emotional disorders. Individuals with psychological distress benefit greatly from clinical psychology and compassionate care and therapy which promotes their  recovery and resilience. 


Since it deals with providing accessible and compassionate care to individuals with mental health problems and acknowledges their struggles, it also breaks down the stigma surrounding mental illness. It fosters a culture of understanding and acceptance of mental health issues in our society and also encourages those struggling to seek help without shame or fear of judgement. Thus, it also contributes towards reshaping societal attitudes toward mental illness. 


It also provides individuals with holistic healing since it addresses all the factors contributing to psychological distress on a personal and intimate level and not only symptoms. This ensures personalised care and long lasting psychological wellness of communities and societies.

Advancement of Science and Technology

Forensic science drives advancements in scientific research and technological innovation. It continually evolves to incorporate cutting-edge techniques, instrumentation, and methodologies, contributing to interdisciplinary collaborations and the broader scientific community.


1.Which field is better to pursue- applied psychology or clinical psychology?

Deciding whether you want to pursue applied psychology or clinical psychology as a career depends on your career goals and interests. Both fields are equally important and rewarding. If you’re more interested in addressing real-world issues in various settings such as business, education, and healthcare, applied psychology is a good choice for you. However, if you want to work on diagnosing and treating mental health disorders and working directly with individuals, conducting assessments, and providing therapy, clinical psychology would be the better choice for you. It all depends on your  interests, strengths, and career aspirations.


  1. What is the difference between job roles you can get after studying applied and clinical psychology?

Job roles after an applied psychology degree or specialisation revolves around the practical application of psychological principles in diverse settings. Some common roles are organisational psychologist and human factors specialist. In contrast, pursuing clinical psychology opens up opportunities dealing with diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. Some common roles are clinical psychologist in hospitals, mental health clinics, or private practice, child psychologist, forensic psychologist, or neuropsychologist.