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A psychologist studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experimenting with, and observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments. Psychologists can be seen as practicing within two general categories of psychology: applied psychology which includes "practitioners" or "professionals", and research-orientated psychology which includes "scientists", or "scholars". The training models endorsed by the American Psychological Association (APA) require that applied psychologists be trained as both researchers and practitioners, and that they possess advanced degrees. Psychologists typically have one of two degrees: PsyD or PhD. The PsyD program prepares the student only for clinical practice (e.g., testing, psychotherapy). Depending on the specialty (industrial/organizational, social, clinical, school, etc.), a PhD may be trained in clinical practice as well as in scientific methodology, to prepare for a career in academia or research. Both the PsyD and PhD programs prepare students to take state licensing exams. Within the two main categories are many further types of psychologists as reflected by the 56 professional classifications recognized by the APA, including clinical, counseling, and educational psychologists. Such professionals work with persons in a variety of therapeutic contexts. People often think of the discipline as involving only such clinical or counseling psychologists. While counseling and psychotherapy are common activities for psychologists, these applied fields are just two branches in the larger domain of psychology. There are other classifications such as industrial, organizational and community psychologists, whose professionals mainly apply psychological research, theories, and techniques to "real-world" problems of business, industry, social benefit organizations, government, and academia.

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