How to Decide Which Behavioral Health Specialty is Right for You

If you are studying for a behavioral health career, you have probably already considered specialties in this area. A mental and behavioral health specialty is the particular subject area in which you will practice. The specialty that you choose will influence the education and training you receive, the types of patients you treat, the theories that guide your therapeutic approach, and the methods you use to assess, diagnose, and treat mental and behavioral illnesses. Regardless of your actual job title, your specialty will describe your work’s essential details and typically precede the job title. So, how do you decide which behavioral health specialty is right for you? Consider some of these ways.

Theoretical Orientation

During your behavioral health training, you will encounter different theories that offer understandings of how problems develop and how to solve them. It is these concepts about the development of problems and resolution that make up your theoretical orientation. Theoretical orientation is the school of thought or approach to therapy that a particular specialty utilizes in practice with patients. Examples include psychoanalytic, cognitive, and humanistic. These theoretical orientations define the type of techniques and skillsets you will use as a clinician in practice. It is a fundamental guiding principle in organizing treatment, and you should take the time to research which feels right for you.

Branch of Psychology

Another method of choosing a specialty area is through the subfields of psychology. These subfields include branches such as clinical, experimental, social, developmental, and industrial-organizational. These unique branches reflect a particular aspect of human behavior and how one goes about studying that behavior. If you are looking at behavioral health programs, you should research whether a specific school excels in the specialty that interests you.

Population Served

You might opt to select a specialty based on the clients that the specialty serves. For example, a child psychologist might work exclusively with pre-adolescent children. A marriage and family counselor assists couples and their families. A trauma counselor works with people who are survivors of traumatic events. If you are drawn to serving a specific client base, this may help you narrow down your options.

Personal Experience

A more personal way of choosing a behavioral health specialty is by examining your own experiences. A child whose mother suffers a traumatic brain injury might become a neuropsychologist. A boy whose parents neglected him due to drug

addiction might choose to be a substance abuse counselor. In this case, you may wish to go into a specialty that relates to your own history and personal experiences.

There are multiple ways of choosing a specialty in psychology and behavioral health. You can select your specialty by considering the theories you believe in and using practical techniques to align with that belief. However, you might allow your personal preferences and background to influence your decision.

Choosing a specialization helps direct your studies and helps your career training align with your personal and professional aspirations. It can also assist you in narrowing down your options as you look at different graduate programs. Take your time and investigate all the specialties of behavioral health.

Arbor Associates is a leader in connecting caregivers with leading human service, allied health, and education fields. Whatever your specialty is, we can help you reach your career goals. If you are curious about multiple specialties, we can help you gain experience firsthand. We also offer options for supplemental training that can augment your formal education.