What is Applied Research in psychology?

March 21, 2024

From academia and behavioral health to military and corrections, there are many ways psychology can help people.

In fact, mental health programs in hospitals, non-profits, governmental programs, and more have their origins in carefully researched data that psychology professionals have helped create.

Whether they’re designing studies, conducting research, or interpreting the final data, a master’s-level research psychology professional can inform best practices in psychology to tackle important issues like recidivism, PTSD, and depression.

Bethany Lohr, PhD, faculty chair of Capella University’s Clinical Psychology program, explains the benefits of an advanced degree in Applied Research for both clinical professionals and those following an academic path.

Q. First of all, what is applied research?

A. Applied research is a scientific study within the field of psychology that focuses on solving problems and innovating new technologies. Its main purpose is to conduct scientific research and apply it to real-world situations. As opposed to delivering mental health services, it’s about looking at human behavior and thinking of ways to meet the needs of a given situation.

Q. What type of skills could I develop with an MS in Clinical Psychology, Applied Research?

A. Skills that could help you be effective in the field of applied research include:

  • Observation: The ability to observe and take note of what you observe is a critical skill.
  • Data analysis: Be able to interpret statistics as well as understand trends and draw predictions based on data.
  • Creative problem-solving: Be curious and able to approach a problem from different angles in the search for possible solutions.
  • Interpersonal communication: Be prepared to spend time interviewing different groups and reporting findings.
  • Ethical awareness: Act with integrity when factors such as privacy and informed consent come up depending on the setting.
  • Adaptability: Remain level-headed amid changing circumstances.

    Learn how a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology, Applied Research can help you build professional skills.

Q. What are some ways applied research can be used? 

A. An applied research specialization could be used in any field where psychological research is an element.

A background in applied research in clinical psychology helps someone design and lead a study, interpret findings and advocate for programs based on those interpretations. Further, it helps make them the right person to lead training for these programs.

Applied research is often a relevant subject area for people who write government grants, such as those who write for mental health programs. An applied research background provides understanding to skillfully interpret the government’s massive data sets and advocate for legislation that relies on data to support it.

Pertaining to healthcare, applied research in clinical psychology could be applied to projects related to quality improvement or quality assurance in areas like emergency room waiting times, patient data collection, triage and other improvements that can impact patient care.

In the case of workforce development, applied research could be used to tailor questions to determine which strategies work best to motivate employees. When hiring, applied research could be applied to help establish job qualifications or criteria to best meet the needs of a department and screen candidates who will mesh well with team dynamics.

Applied research can help some organizations analyze what kinds of prompts might inspire people to volunteer their time and skills to charities.

Applied research could even come into play in theme park design when deciding where to place trash cans or queue line management to keep guests engaged.

All these situations rely on the analysis of human behavior and predictions and proposals based on those observations.

Q. Beyond the workplace, who else is the MS in Clinical Psychology, Applied Research for?

A. A Master of Science in Clinical Psychology, Applied Research program involves coursework that teaches the research skills and knowledge that may help you prepare when pursuing a PhD. Major topics in a PhD program could include research methodology, psychotherapy theories, tests and measurement, psychopathology, human development, ethical principles and diversity.

Additionally, the applied research specialization can help prepare you to pursue a PsyD in Clinical Psychology.

Q. Is this specialty just for academics and non-therapy professionals? Would therapy professionals benefit from this knowledge as well?       

 A. Someone in the therapy field can also benefit from understanding applied research, especially if they think they’ll want to pursue a doctoral degree down the road. If they want to continue in therapy practice, this master’s can help them interpret psychology research that may inform their therapeutic treatment plans.

 In short, applied research may be a good option for expanding professional expertise. It all depends on your professional goals.

Learn more about Capella’s Master’s in Clinical Psychology, Applied Research degree program.

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