The Identity of Psychology

Miguel Ricou, Silvia Amado Cordeiro, Amanda Franco, Cristina Costa Lobo


Background: Today, psychology benefits from widespread acknowledgement, being taken into account and used in a growing number of spheres of society. Nonetheless, not always does this profession follow such acknowledgment, which becomes a real employability
problem for psychologists who are looking for a job in Portugal. Moreover, in an ever more specialized and flexible world in what concerns professional identities and careers, the development of psychology as a profession demands the establishment of guidelines
and limits, besides an introspective attitude about the current psychological practice. Otherwise, psychology as a profession risks losing its identity, shrinking with the pressure that is imposed on it by its different specialties and areas of action.
Goals: We characterized the perceptions of Portuguese psychologists about the exclusive goal of psychological intervention, the tasks that are exclusively performed by psychologists and, also, the tasks that are performed by psychologists but which may also be performed
by other professionals who are not psychologists. This analysis aimed to reveal if psychologists share a common and clear standing on this matter.
Methods: We used a three open-answer question questionnaire, which was specifically designed for this study. Data analysis was performed using thematic categorical content analysis.
Results: Our results stress that psychologists lack agreement concerning the three questions under study, which created a significant number of subcategories. Furthermore, we found answers that are clearly incorrect regarding these three issues, as well as a lack of
response from a few participants.
Discussion: We discuss the potential implications of the results for psychologists’ professional practice, as well as for the construction of a solid identity that may promote the general public’s trust in psychologists. Also, we reflect on the need to define a single and
exclusive goal for psychological intervention, one that is able to integrate the diversity of interventions in the field of psychology.


Psychological intervention; Professional identity; Survey; Content analysis

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