How to Self Learn Psychology: The Complete Guide

Taking the time to learn a new subject on your own can be challenging, but with the right information and mindset, it is possible. You may be interested in learning more about psychology, but how does one go about learning about this vast topic on your own?

Learning psychology on your own won’t be easy, but it’s possible. First, you’ll want to be able to define psychology, as well as the different subtopics of psychology. After that, you can begin consuming any information you can on the matter, from free online courses to textbooks. 

In this article, we’ll be going in depth into how you can successfully learn psychology on your own, as well as where to start and how to study correctly. If you’re interested in learning more about these topics, keep on reading.

What Is Psychology? 

Before you begin studying psychology on your own, it’s important to understand exactly what psychology means. In Latin, psychology literally means “the study of the soul,” while the actual definition means “the science of behavior and mental processes.” 

When you first begin studying psychology on your own, a good place to start is at the very beginning. Diving into the origins of psychology and how it came to be is key to fully understanding this subject.

Below, we’ll go in depth into where you can find helpful resources and information if you’re looking to learn about psychology on your own. 

How to Get Started Learning General Psychology

We can easily trace the study of psychology all the way back to ancient Greece, as records show early conversations around the duality between mind and body first began there. It’s important to dive into the history of psychology and how it began before diving into other specific subjects. 

Once you have a better understanding of what psychology is, as well as how psychologists past and present have asked certain questions, you can begin learning more about the different subfields of study. 

Below, we’ll go in depth into how you can successfully begin learning psychology on your own as a beginner. 

Read Introduction to Psychology Textbooks 

There are plenty of resources available to you if you’re looking to start self learning this subject. A great start would be any introduction to psychology textbooks you can find that will give you an overview of the history of psychology, as well as an introduction to some of the founding pioneers in the field. 

A popular choice amongst beginners is Hergenhahn’s An Introduction to the History of Psychology. This textbook will provide you with an overview of the field and will discuss in great detail themes such as consciousness, learning, memory, and perception. 

You have the option of purchasing this book through Amazon or renting it for a short period of time. You can also choose between renting or purchasing a physical textbook, as well as a digital version. No matter what the best option is for you, you’ll be sure to receive all the information you need with this textbook when you’re first starting out

Look for Online Courses You Can Take

Even as a solo learner, you can still enroll yourself in a psychology course, which will allow you access to hundreds of modules and pieces of information that will be beneficial to you while you work independently.

There are plenty of free courses that you can find online if you choose not to enroll yourself in a college course. For example, Alison offers free online psychology courses that pertain to a number of different subfields that you can start right now. 

For example, the course linked above dives into the connection between stress and certain diseases, but there are plenty more you can explore and take that are all free and available to you at any time. Online courses such as these are a great way to self learn psychology on your own time, no matter what your schedule looks like.

Alison is also unique in that you can receive different kinds of certification once you’ve completed certain courses. An unlimited amount of knowledge is available to you with just a click of a button, so what are you waiting for? 

MIT OpenCourseware also offers excellent courses related to psychology and its subfields. Here you’ll find courses such as “Introduction to Psychology,” “Cognitive Processes,” and “Psychology of Gender.” You can easily access these courses with a click of a button and begin working on them on your own time, which is another upside of self learning a new subject.

Yale also offers open online courses on a wide variety of subjects, including psychology. Get started today on any subject that catches your interest. It’s never been easier to get started learning a new subject as an independent learner. There is so much information available right at your fingertips, and you just have to know where to look. 

Find YouTube Videos and Podcasts on the Subject

This is another free and valuable resource that is commonly overlooked. You can find a lot of information pertaining to psychology through Youtube videos and a large array of science-based podcasts that are available.

Social psychologist Andy Luttrell has a youtube channel where he discusses multiple subfields within the world of psychology. While most of his videos center around social psychology, you can find numerous playlists on his channel relating to other topics as well that will be just as helpful to those learning psychology for the first time. 

In the video below, you can watch one of Luttrell’s most popular uploads, where he explains one of the most well known social psychology topics, known as the spotlight effect. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, as well as watching Luttrell’s psychology videos, watch the video below:

Another Youtube channel you can check out is The Psych Show with Dr. Ali Mattu. Dr. Mattu is a clinical psychologist that creates content on Youtube that covers just about every aspect of psychology you can think of. 

From dealing with coronavirus related anxiety, debunking mental health myths, and recommending psychology books, Dr. Mattu covers everything in this psychology-based channel. 

In the video below, Dr. Mattu goes in depth into some of the top psychology books he recommends for those looking to understand the basics:

Aside from Youtube channels that offer free psychology-based information and content, there are plenty of psychology podcasts available that you can check out. NPR has a psychology-based podcast called Hidden Brain that discusses different aspects of human behavior. 

Hosted by Shankar Vendentam, this podcast intertwines science and storytelling into one podcast that’s bound to be helpful to those learning more about psychology on their own time. 

Another beneficial podcast for psychology learners is Speaking of Psychology, which is produced by the American Psychology Association. Each week they discuss a new element within psychology that listeners will find eye-opening and educational. 

There are plenty more psychology podcasts available that listeners such as yourself can learn from that will help you grow as a student of psychology, the more you tune in and listen. 

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of how you can educate yourself as a solo learner in the field of psychology. Locating free and educational sources is a great start if you’re looking to get started as an independent learner. 

Once you absorb enough information when it comes to the basics of psychology, as well as its history, you can begin diving deeper into some of the subfields psychology offers. Below, we’ll go in depth into some of the most popular branches of psychology and how you can self learn those as well. 

How to Self Learn Certain Branches of Psychology

As we stated above, once you understand the basics of general psychology, you can begin diving deeper into the subtopics that psychology has to offer. Let’s discuss some of the most popular branches of psychology and where you can find vital information about them in order to successfully learn about them on your own. 

Abnormal Psychology 

Abnormal psychology is the study of abnormal behavior, usually in a clinical context. The term abnormal actually covers a large array of different mental illnesses, from anxiety to personality disorders. 

If you’re looking for an introduction to abnormal psychology, there are plenty of resources available if you’re interested in learning more about this specific niche within psychology. A great textbook to begin with if you’re new to abnormal psychology is Abnormal Psychology 6th edition by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema.

This textbook is an easy read and approaches abnormal behaviors with empathy and cutting edge research that will help readers learn everything they need to know about abnormal psychology. 

Another great read is Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues In Abnormal Psychology by Richard P. Halgin. This textbook dives into discussions about the ever-growing debates researchers and psychologists have with each other that surround abnormal psychology. 

This is a great book to look into if you already understand the basics of abnormal psychology, but you’re looking to further your understanding of it, as well as the discussions that go on around this field. 

If you’re looking for other ways to further your knowledge surrounding abnormal psychology, Class Central offers free online courses that you can take to further your understanding of this field. With some courses being self-paced, and some beginning at certain times, it’s up to you what works best for you and your learning schedule. 

There are also plenty of courses available on Youtube that you can access. The video below is an introduction to one of the many courses you can instantly begin if you’re looking to get started in the world of abnormal psychology:

If you’re on the lookout for a podcast to get started on, the Abnormal Psychology Lectures Podcast is a great source and tool to turn to. Hosted by Dana C. Leighton, this podcast gives you an in-depth look into what experts are discussing and researching within the world of abnormal psychology. 

Using some, if not all, of the resources we listed above, it will be easy to get started if you’re looking to study one of the most popular subfields of psychology.

Behavioral Psychology 

Another one of the more popular subfields of psychology is behavioral. This form of psychology, also known as behaviorism, is the theory of learning based on the concept that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. 

If you’re looking for a piece of text that will help you while you learn more about behavioral psychology on your own time, this Introduction to Learning and Behavior textbook will give you everything you need. 

This text is designed to help readers apply learning theories and principles to the world of behavioral psychology. This is a great tool to use when you’re self learning a large and complex sub-field of psychology like this one.

If you’re looking for free content you can gain access to with just a click of a button, there are plenty of courses available on Youtube that pertain to this subject. In the video below, you can watch an introduction to a human behavior course that will help you grow in your studies:

You can also access free courses on Alison about human behavior that are all self-paced and will be beneficial to you throughout your learning journey. You can easily get started today if you’re looking for an in-depth understanding of human behavior.

Looking for the ideal podcast that focuses on this niche of psychology? Look no further than The Psychology Podcast with Dr. Barry Kaufman. This podcast will be sure to stimulate your mind as well as help you understand how our environments shape our behavior.

Clinical Psychology 

Clinical psychology is a branch of psychology that deals with understanding and treating certain illnesses and behaviors. While other subfields deal with understanding certain factors within psychology, this branch also dives into things such as diagnosing and treating certain disorders.

Finding the right textbook is a great start when looking to self learn clinical psychology. One of the most highly recommended texts you can find on this subject is this 5th edition Clinical Psychology: Science, Practice, and Diversity by Andrew M. Pomerantz. 

This book explores key topics such as clinical assessments, certain kinds of therapy, and ethical issues that exist within the field. If you’re interested in learning more about clinical psychology, this book will give you all the information and tools you need to succeed within this field. 

Are you interested in taking online courses offered by some of the most prestigious colleges? Coursera has plenty of classes you can immediately access from universities such as Yale and John Hopkins. Whether you’re a beginner in this field, or you’ve already moved on to more advanced lessons, there’s something available for everyone.

There are also plenty of Youtube videos available on the subject that you should take advantage of if you’re looking to educate yourself further in clinical psychology. In the video below, an Oxford professor gives an insight into the world of clinical psychology:

Cognitive Psychology 

Cognitive psychology is the study of all mental processes such as memory, thinking, problem solving, and perception. Similar to the other subfields of psychology we listed above, there are plenty of sources out there that will help you self learn cognitive psychology.

While not a textbook, this helpful workbook, Retraining Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks is a great way to immerse yourself in the world of cognitive psychology and how it works. This workbook will also give you insight on a popular cognitive practical called cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is a common theme and practice within this sub-field.

If you’re looking for self-paced classes, Class Central offers fee introduction to cognitive psychology courses that will definitely come in handy. There are plenty of classes to choose from that range from beginner levels to more advanced levels of learning.

You’ll also find plenty of videos relating to this subject on Youtube, such as the video that’s linked below. In the video below, you can watch an introduction to a cognitive psychology lecture that’s available for viewing right now: 

Looking for the ideal cognitive psychology podcast, you can listen to while on the go? Axons and Axioms is a great choice for those who are looking for a conversation based listening experience between two experts. This quirky podcast features two professors who discuss cognitive psychology over drinks, and it’s just as educational as it is enjoyable. 

Developmental Psychology 

Developmental psychology deals with how a person’s way of thinking, feeling, and behaving can change and evolve over time. While some might limit developmental psychology exclusively towards the study of how young children think and behave, this subfield deals with behavior throughout a person’s lifespan. 

If you’re looking to get started in the world of developmental psychology, this textbook, Developmental Psychology: The Growth of Mind and Behavior is a great start towards self learning. This text is crucial to those who are looking to educate themselves further within the field, as well as those looking to explore complicated questions and themes. 

If you’re on the lookout for free courses and lectures you can access that pertain to this field, you can find plenty on Youtube. Below, you can find an example of just one of the many courses that are available online that you can access for free that will allow you to begin learning instantly:

If you’re interested in finding podcasts that discuss developmental psychology, NPR has another psychology podcast titled Stories About Developmental Psychology that you should definitely check out. The stories within this podcast are all told by experts and is a truly entertaining experience. 

Thankfully, no matter where you look, there are plenty of resources available on the subject matter you’re looking for and are interested in. It’s vital you take advantage of all the resources available to you and absorb as much information as you can get your hands on. 

Forensic Psychology 

Forensic psychology is a unique subfield of psychology that deals with both the practice of science and law. People who work within this field can hold many different jobs and perform many different roles, which make it such a unique form of psychology. 

If you’re in need of a helpful and educational textbook on the matter, this Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application is exactly what you need. This read will not only give you a strong introduction into the world of forensic psychology but also a way to apply this knowledge within the civil and criminal justice system. 

Taking the time to read a textbook like this on your own time, while also fully absorbing the information and taking notes is key to successfully self learning a new subject. 

Future Learn also has free forensic psychology courses you can take on your own time. They have multiple courses available on this subject, with some lasting anywhere from two weeks to eight weeks. Free courses such as these are highly recommended to new learners who are independently learning on their own time and pace.

You can easily find just as many free courses and lectures available on Youtube. In the video below, you can get an in-depth look into the essentials that forensic psychologists need to operate and do their jobs correctly:

Another great way to educate yourself in forensic psychology is through an informative and fun podcast. A Date With Darkness is a unique look into the world of forensics and is hosted by a licensed psychotherapist who dives into their past with forensics. 

If you’re looking for a podcast that combines humor with strong, educational value, you’ve come to the right place. It’s clear to see that no matter what avenue to turn to, there are plenty of resources available to you if you know where to look.

Social Psychology 

The last subfield of psychology we’ll be discussing in this article is social psychology. This sector of psychology deals with how people behave in the presence of others, whether that presence is real or imagined. 

The 5th edition of this textbook, Social Psychology, is highly recommended for those who are new to this subfield of psychology and are looking to educate themselves, starting from the beginning. 

You can also access free courses about social psychology through Class Central, which we have mentioned in this article previously. The course linked above even offers a free certificate of completion after successfully attending the entire length of this seven-week course. 

You can also view some of the many lectures that are available on Youtube that discuss social psychology. In the video below, Dr. Brenda Major dives into an introduction into the world of social psychology for beginners: 

Looking for more content on social psychology that will further your self learning? All In The Mind is a psychology-based podcast that focuses on it’s social aspects and discussions. Hosted by Lynne Malcolm, this podcast touches on everything related to the mind, brain, and human behavior. 

It’s important to get creative when self learning a new subject. As an independent learner, you should search extensively for all the information you can pertaining to the subject you’re looking into. From textbooks to podcasts, there is definitely something out there for you, no matter what you’re interested in learning. 

How to Study Psychology on Your Own

We’ve discussed how you can self learn general psychology, as well as multiple other subfields within psychology successfully. But it’s important to know how to study these topics in order to fully understand them. Below, we’ll go over how you can correctly study psychology as an independent learner.

Take Decent Notes 

Not only is it important to constantly take notes while learning new concepts, but taking decent notes while reading is key to being able to go back and study accordingly.

Make sure to take your time while writing out notes in a way that makes it easy to understand when you’re studying and reviewing your work later on. It’s also a good idea to use tools such as notecards and even the resources your textbook offers you to make note-taking and studying a much easier task.

Keep a Study Schedule

It can be difficult to self learn any new topic, no matter what it is. But one of the factors that can make it extra difficult is the fact that you are solely responsible for your studies. You may not have anyone else, such as a professor or peer, keeping you responsible and on task. 

It’s up to you to keep a strict study schedule with yourself in order to maintain consistency. As an independent learner, it’s important you map out what works for you and how you can make that happen when it comes to your studies and what you’re able to get done in a day. 

These are just a few examples for those who are independently studying and in charge of their own learning. While it may be difficult to learn a new subject from scratch on your own, it’s ideal to map out a plan for yourself in terms of what your goals are. 

Conclusion 

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of how you can self learn psychology. 

In this article, we went over how you can teach yourself general psychology, and what resources you can access to make that happen. We also went over multiple different subfields within psychology and how you can successfully learn those as well. 

From textbooks to podcasts, there are plenty of ways you can learn new subjects on your own. So now that you have all the tools you need to self learn psychology, what are you waiting for? You have all the knowledge you need to become an expert in no time. 

Sources 

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