Different areas of psychology in Malta
Although psychology is a relatively new profession in Malta, a wide variety of psychology specialties are practiced. Of these, clinical, counselling and educational psychology have the longest history and the widest representation on the Maltese islands. The first cohort of locally trained forensic and health psychologists graduated in 2017. The year 2019 saw neuropsychology offered for the first time as an area of specialization in the local Masters of psychology course. Previously, people wishing to specialize in these areas travelled to get their education abroad, as people wishing to specialize in other areas of psychology still do.
Below you can find brief descriptions of the different specializations, with some information relevant to the Maltese employment context. Links are also provided to more in-depth descriptions by prominent organizations for psychologists.
As it’s name suggests, clinical psychology focuses on looking at issues that are likely to require services in clinical settings, which is why clinical psychologists often work with populations that are affected by more serious mental illnesses. Therefore, clinical psychologists are particularly suited to carry out testing that could help to reach a diagnosis.
In the Maltese public sector, there is little practical differentiation in the employment of clinical and counselling psychologists. Clinical psychologists are mostly employed in the health services at Mount Carmel or Mater Dei hospital, as well as with parastatal agencies such as Appoġġ, Sedqa and Aġenzija Sapport. Many also work privately, either in addition to work for institutions or as a primary source of their income. Outside of Malta, posts often differentiate between counselling and clinical psychologists.
A more in-depth explanation of the role of Clinical Psychologists can be found on the website of the American Psychological Association at: https://www.apa.org/action/science/clinical/education-training
Counselling psychologists are primarily trained to support people without significant psychopathology through consultations. They would be ideally suited to work with populations experiencing stress or challenges to their relationships and identities, such as supporting people diagnosed with cancer or people dealing with the aftermath of a trauma. Counselling psychologists might also carry out personality testing to determine personality characteristics and other testing primarily geared towards a non-clinical population.
In the Maltese public sector, there is little practical differentiation in the employment of clinical and counselling psychologists. Counselling psychologists are mostly employed in the health services at parastatal agencies such as Appoġġ, Sedqa and Aġenzija Sapport, or non-governmental organizations, as well as with the public hospitals. Many also work privately, either in addition to work for institutions or as a primary source of their income.
A more in-depth explanation of the role of Counselling Psychologists can be found at https://www.psychologycareercenter.org/counseling-psychologist.html
Educational psychology is geared towards assessing school-aged children and designing interventions to target any difficulties that might otherwise hinder them from reaching their full potential in the educational sector. Their specialization makes them ideally suited to administer intelligence and memory tests, tests to identify specific learning disabilities, and tests to assess whether a child is reaching their developmental milestones.
In Malta, both public and church schools have their own psychological services which employ psychologists. Independent schools also employ educational psychologists. Many educational psychologists also work privately, either in addition to work for institutions or as a primary source of their income.
A more in-depth explanation of the role of Educational Psychologists can be found on the website of the American Psychological Association at: https://www.apa.org/action/science/teaching-learning/index
Forensic psychology specializes in understanding crime and working with forensic populations and justice systems. Among other things, forensic psychologists are involved in assessing witness credibility, assess risk of reoffending and advising courts on issues related to mental health. They can also be involved in the designing of correctional programs. Out of all specializations, they are most suited to work with people with severe antisocial traits.
In Malta, forensic psychologists work primarily in prison, including in the forensic ward at the Mount Carmel hospital.
A more in-depth explanation of the role of Forensic Psychologists can be found at: https://www.allpsychologyschools.com/forensic-psychology/job-description/
Among other things, health psychology focuses on promoting healthy behaviours, preventing behaviours hazardous to health and supporting people with chronic health conditions to adjust their behaviours to help in the management of their condition and furthering understanding of these areas.
The number of health psychologists in Malta is still relatively small. The Maltese health psychologists work mostly in the public health services, with clients dealing with various physical and/or mental health difficulties. Health psychologists also have a valuable input to give in the design of health services, as well as health-related campaigns targeting the general public. They can also work with pain management or smoking cessation.
A more in-depth explanation of the role of Health Psychologists can be found on the website of the American Psychological Association at: https://www.apa.org/action/science/health/education-training
Neuropsychologists are particularly suited to assess neurological functioning through specific tests. They play an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental and neuro-degenerative conditions by testing attention, memory and impulse control. Their expertise can also help in the study, assessment and treatment of substance use. In Malta they mostly work in the public health sector.
A more in-depth explanation of the area of neuropsychology can be found on the website of the American Psychological Association at: https://www.apa.org/action/science/brain-science/education-training
Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Organizational psychologists specialize in meeting the needs of companies and other larger organizations when it comes to recruitment of staff, matching of staff with tasks and creating efficient and well-functioning working environments that maximize productivity whilst minimizing staff turnover.
The Maltese Association for Work and Organizational Psychology represented practitioners of this specialization from its foundation in 2011 until in 2019, when it was forced to close due to the tightening of laws on voluntary organizations.
A more in-depth explanation of the role of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists can be found on the website of the American Psychological Association at: https://www.apa.org/action/science/organizational/education-training
Social psychologists focus on understanding people as social beings. They study how the presence of others – whether virtual, physical or imaginary – affects people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Many social psychologists work privately in various areas such as marketing and management, and in public institutions interested in influencing people’s behaviour. Many social psychologists also work primarily as researchers or in the academia, which is the primary work context for Maltese social psychologists.
A more in-depth explanation of the role of social psychologists can be found on the website of American Psychological Association at: https://www.apa.org/action/science/social/education-training