From nearly the beginning, human beings have devoted much thought to questions of the mind. How we think, how we learn and how we understand the world around us are questions that ancient philosophers from Egypt to Greece to China to India have pondered.
In the last 200 years, these philosophical meditations of the mind took on a more formal shape, developing into the scientific field of psychology that we know of today. Over time, psychologists took their theories of human cognition, behavior and perception out of the textbook and into clinics, offices and schools.
In this way, the field of applied psychology was born (though the story, as you will see, is a bit more complicated than that).
What is applied psychology? A definition.
Encyclopedia Britannica defines applied psychology as “the use of methods and findings of scientific psychology to solve practical problems of human and animal behavior and experience.”
Even the Britannica editors acknowledge that this definition is far from complete. The broad and varied types of applied psychology make a single definition elusive.
That being said, the important element here (and what ultimately defines applied psychology within psychology as a whole) is the use of psychology to “solve practical problems.” Though their work depends upon theory, clinical psychologists work in practical terms, not theoretical ones. They attempt to solve real issues that affect real people in the real world.