2 Psychology as a Profession

History of Psychology

  1. Robin L. Cautin PhD1,
  2. Donald K. Freedheim PhD2,
  3. Patrick H. Deleon PhD3

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop201004

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Cautin, R. L., Freedheim, D. K. and Deleon, P. H. 2012. Psychology as a Profession . Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 1:2.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Manhattanville College, Department of Psychology, Purchase, New York, USA

  2. 2

    Case Western Reserve University, Department of Psychological Sciences, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

  3. 3

    Office of Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Washington, DC, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


There was a practice of psychology long before there was a science of psychology. But even some of the earliest American psychologists embraced applied research, particularly its potential applicability to the field of education. Fueled by the social upheaval of early 20th century America, academic psychologists were applying their science to address real-world problems more broadly—in business, the courts, schools, and in the clinic. Psychologists' involvement in World War I affirmed the utility of mental testing and fostered the development of professional psychology. World War II had an even greater impact on the field, as psychologists, emboldened by their experiences during wartime, sought to expand their professional boundaries; establish standards of professional training and practice; and to secure professional legitimacy and status, not only in state legislatures, but also eventually with insurance companies and employers. Intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary tensions are discussed in the context of the changing economic context and increasing calls for accountability and quality assurance, with implications for the viability of professional psychology's future.


  • professional psychology;
  • scientist–practitioner gap;
  • Lightner Witmer;
  • psychological testing;
  • prescriptive authority;
  • World Wars I and II