The Future of Psychology: New Methods for Helping People

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Bachelor’s degrees in psychology, like Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, aim to provide students with a broad foundation in contemporary psychological concepts. Courses such as Social Psychology, Human Development, Multicultural Psychology, and more help bachelor’s degree students gain applied, career-related knowledge that they can use throughout their professional lives, while learning about key psychological concepts like experimental methodology, critical thinking, and human behavior in depth.

As a science and a field of study, psychology is constantly evolving. New areas of research are being explored, and decades-old beliefs are being questioned as new information comes to light. Depending on the desired role, students who wish to become mental health professionals and be part of the exciting future of psychology may sometimes need a graduate-level degree as well as certifications. But the first step in pursuing a rewarding psychology career is typically earning a bachelor’s degree in the field.

As aspiring mental health professionals pursue their bachelor’s degree in psychology, it is crucial that they are on top of the latest trends and developments shaping this field and the future of the mind, including burgeoning new topics in social science, the growing complexity of human diversity, and innovative new tools reshaping psychological research.

Psychology’s Influence on Topics in Social Science

Psychology is not an insular or isolated field. Instead, psychological concepts, methods, and research can be used to examine the causes and effects of other events and phenomena in several social sciences. For example, areas that are likely to be impacted by psychology in the future include workplace policies, nutrition and mental health, and even how humans are taking care of the planet.

Workplace-related health conditions

For decades, work-related injuries were thought of as physical events, like breaking an arm or suffering a physical injury on the job. But developments in psychology are pushing to include mental health events within workplace-related injuries as well.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that an illness or injury is work related “if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness.” This could include a factory worker who has his hand injured by a piece of manufacturing equipment or an employee whose back condition is worsened after carrying too many supplies.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2017 Employer-Reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses report, the total recordable cases of nonfatal occupational injuries has declined nearly every year since 2004. Initially, this data can be interpreted as proof that workplaces are becoming safer on average. But some psychologists have started to question whether mental disorders, like depression or anxiety, caused by organizational stressors can also be deemed as work-related injuries.

Research reported in the Journal of Health and Social Sciences describes how psychological injuries can sprout “from a common workplace conflict, without a severe traumatic event, workplace violence, or the phenomenon of mobbing/bullying.” Even though the public may generally think of work-related injuries as physical events, this research shows that future mental conditions may be routinely diagnosed as owing to conditions in the workplace. The fact that psychological injuries are now being considered alongside physical workplace injuries emphasizes just how much psychology has and will continue to evolve.

The psychological effects of climate change

Climate change is reshaping our planet and drastically changing how humans will live on it in the coming decades. Those environmental changes will have a profound psychological effect on humanity, and researchers are already exploring some of the mental health challenges we may face in the wake of climate change.

The social sciences often focus on how climate change is impacting and will continue to impact humans, such as populations being displaced because cities are no longer habitable, or individuals dying because they live in areas where food production is not sustainable.

But one area of climate change science and research that is currently growing is climate change psychology. Climate change psychology refers to how climate change is affecting and could affect human minds, both now and in the future. For example, carbon dioxide, or C02, is a gas known to cause global warming. Carbon dioxide is expelled by cars that run on fossil fuels. Residents in major cities with strong public transportation systems don’t have to drive as much or at all, and their overall C02 impact is much lower. Psychological research can dive deeper into the effect of global warming on these major city dwellers by examining how living in these cities may impact both interpersonal and intergroup behavior as well as individuals’ mental health, despite their smaller contribution to climate change.

Even though a person living in a more dense area can have a less detrimental impact on the environment than other regions of the country, there are potential downsides to this urban lifestyle. A 2017 study published in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International noted that residents in large cities face a higher risk for serious mental illness than those living in rural areas. Studies like these show that even though individuals living in cities have many opportunities to leave a smaller carbon footprint, they still face other challenges as a result of this lifestyle.

The potential stressors associated with urban living can have widespread effects on health. An article in the journal Environmental Research notes, “Although urban living offers increased access to critical resources and can help to mitigate climate change, densely populated neighborhood environments are often higher in many of the physical and psychological stressors that are detrimental to health, and lower in the social capital that is beneficial to health.” Researchers determined that “natural space has the potential to address the pressing issue of social isolation and, in turn, poor mental health faced by residents of dense urban environments.” In the future, psychological research may determine the specific mental health benefits of spending more time in natural environments.

Nutrition and mental health

It can be tempting to think of nutrition as something that only affects physical health, but it’s actually deeply connected to mental health as well. Nutrition is an area where current and future psychology professionals can make great strides.

A recent study published in the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal examined the relationship between severe mental illness and higher rates of obesity, in which poor nutrition has played a factor. It found mental illness can lead to poor nutrition, as when someone who is experiencing depression develops poor dietary habits. The poor nutrition may in turn create physical health concerns, such as obesity. In some cases, the poor diet can also exacerbate the current mental illness.

In the future, psychology will likely continue to show us just how linked nutrition is to how we think and feel. Researchers are proving that the food and vitamins we consume can have a large impact, positive and negative, on our mental state.

Exploring Human Diversity

The future of mind research may also offer valuable insight into how discrimination and stereotyping affects the health of different demographic groups. Recent research of human diversity has shown individuals from different backgrounds can face disadvantages and challenges throughout their lives. For example, a recent report in Pediatric Blood & Cancer noted how “health disparities related to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and insurance status impact quality, access, and health outcomes for children.”

But psychological research can take these types of studies a step further, examining the behavior and relationships that contribute to issues like bullying, stereotyping, and discrimination among diverse individuals. In an article published in the journal Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers examined how the relationships between siblings change after one of them comes out publicly as transgender or nonbinary. According to the article, “Developing an increased understanding of transgender issues appeared to enable young people to embrace supportive roles, and as a consequence, they reported that their relationships with their gender-diverse siblings were enhanced.” The researchers also noted that, beyond the relationships growing stronger, some respondents became more worried about their transgender sibling’s well-being after becoming more aware of significant problems that face this community. This study is a great example of the potential future of psychology, giving insight into both causes of and potential solutions to challenging social problems among marginalized groups.

Digital Tools Changing Psychological Research

As psychology has evolved over the decades, scientists, researchers, and health practitioners have utilized new digital tools to provide more effective care and treatment to patients and populations.

Digital tools may affect future study of the mind and how it is understood within the field of psychology by providing mental health professionals and researchers with new avenues and abilities to conduct and find research. These tools can help push their science forward and help improve people’s lives.

Many psychological studies involve surveying members of a certain population or group. According to an article in Behavior Research and Therapy, digital technology has made this task easier for researchers by improving how assessment questionnaires are delivered and interpreted which, “until recently, have been largely in pencil-and-paper format and manually scored,” the article notes.

Training websites are noted as popular tools that can help current and future psychology researchers learn new concepts. The article in Behavior Research and Therapy notes the numerous benefits of these training websites. “In addition to letting trainees see therapy actually being delivered, it can be accessed whenever and wherever it suits the trainee, and it can easily be updated. Digital training programs can be used on their own or supplemented with support,” the article says.

Digital tools can also be used to treat and assess patients. Online therapy, for example, enables patients to speak with their mental health practitioner from a remote setting, while patient portals can allow individuals to refill necessary prescriptions and obtain medical records with ease. These tools can also enable researchers and patients to provide and receive specialized treatment in any part of the country. A patient living in a rural area who needs to consult with a specialized mental health practitioner hundreds of miles away can often do so through digital means.

Discover How the Future of Psychology Will Continue to Change

Aspiring mental health professionals who want to contribute to future studies of the mind can start by earning their bachelor’s degree in psychology from an accredited institution. Visit Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology to learn more about this program.

Sources:

Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, “Occupational Therapy Intervention Addressing Weight Gain and Obesity in People with Severe Mental Illness: A Scoping Review”

Behaviour Research and Therapy, “The Impact of Digital Technology on Psychological Treatments and Their Dissemination”

Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employer-Reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses—2017”

Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, “Understanding More About How Young People Make Sense of Their Siblings Changing Gender Identity: How This Might Affect Their Relationships with Their Gender-Diverse Siblings and Their Experiences”

Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, “Cities and Mental Health”

Environmental Research, “Exposure to Natural Space, Sense of Community Belonging, and Adverse Mental Health Outcomes Across an Urban Region”

Journal of Health and Social Sciences, “Workplace Conflicts and Psychological Work-Related Injuries: Our Experience in Italy”

Maryville University, Online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 1904.5—Determination of Work-Relatedness

Pediatric Blood & Cancer, “Payer and Race/Ethnicity Influence Length and Cost of Childhood Cancer Hospitalizations”

WNBC, “New Yorkers Are Fatter, More Depressed and Sleepless Than Ever, New Research Finds”