Just hardly three decades ago, all of Western psychology was based on Freudian psychology. Sigmund Freud was hailed as the father of modern psychology. Today (for over the past two decades) Freudian psychology has been not only been discredited, but outright an embarrassment, and even considered laughable amongst the psychology fraternity.
Sadly, in India, in psychology departments with their syllabuses frozen in time, people are still groomed in Freudian psychology and Freudian analysis (and go forth into society and wreak mayhem with their outdated methods!).
The fact that so recently most psychology was following a theory and psychoanalysis techniques that has been been discredited and replaced shows how fledgling the subject of psychology is in the West.
Modern psychology is very much in its infancy, compared with the science of yoga (see Psychology). This is not to give the impression Western psychology is useless. Not many people are inclined to undertake yoga on their own, unless prescribed by someone (like a friend or psychologist). For such people psychology is of benefit, at least as a stepping stone, towards yoga. More and more psychologists these days, refer their patients to counselors trained in yoga, and this pairing of psychology with yoga is only bound increase.
Carl Gustav Jung, is the successor to Freud, is today consider the new father of modern psychology. FYI, Jung gave us the words “introvert” and “extrovert”. Little do people know that his works were based on or a great deal influenced by Hindu philosophy. For example, his theory of archetypes is very similar to the idea of varnasrama. He himself does not hide the fact he was a Sanskrit scholar and referenced Hindu sources. You’ll find that bit of truth in academic archives and journals, but any connection to Hindu references have been purged from all general text books on psychology. This sort of non-attribution, where Hindu sources are not mentioned, has become all too common in Western academia, especially in the soft-sciences (see article: Non-Attribution).
Psychology requires sharp (not just good) analytical skills, an intuition gained from years of experience, as well as a level of detachment. The psychologist has to keep himself sufficiently detached from the subject. A good psychologist has clarity of thought and composed (non-agitated) state of mind, without which you cannot diagnose or help another person, let alone yourself.
A good psychologist determines the root cause of the problems that plague a person usually through some form of psychoanalysis. It means patiently analyzing the person (as in psychoanalysis), uncovering the person’s psychology. Often involves question-answer sessions, where the patient’s response is surveyed (not just the response, but the way the person responds, including enunciations, patterns, choice of words, etc). That’s one reason why (at least in the USA) people say they have an appointment with their analyst (instead of using the term psychiatrist).
Psychology also has very little to do with cultural background. In the end it is all about human nature, regardless of what culture you are from. There are very few exceptions where culture plays a significant part in molding ones character, in which case the psychologist does his background research — the purpose of which is to strip away any cultural baggage. In the end, it’s all about the root causes mentioned in beginning of this article, and the mechanisms to deal with it. See Yoga and Psychology.