10 Most Famous Clinical Psychologists of All Time

One of the most complex and interesting fields of study is psychology. The human mind is an interesting place, that we’re only just beginning to understand. Over the last 100 years, though, we have made great strides as a society in understanding what goes on inside the mind.

There are plenty of famous clinical psychologists who have helped us open up the mind and begin to solve some of its mysteries. If you are looking to get a psychology degree, chances are that you will study the work of many psychologists, including these 10 famous clinical psychologists:

  1. Sigmund Freud: Everyone knows who Sigmund Freud is. This Austrian philosopher and psychologist is known as the founder of modern psychoanalysis. Freud’s theories have provided a basis for modern clinical psychology, and even provided a basis for a great deal of controversy. With one of his colleagues, Joseph Breuer, he was among the first to conceive of the study of the mind and psyche. He developed several therapy techniques that are still in use today, and Freud’s concepts have made him a household name.
  2. Carl Jung: Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung is known as the founder of analytical psychology. He had a deep interest in religion, and its effect on the psyche. Jung also pioneered the idea of dream analysis, and used dreams as part of his clinical therapy approach. He considered himself a natural scientist, and observed the development of people. One of Jung’s most interesting concepts considers the way that people become individuals — and the way that they become “whole” people. Jung is one of the most well-known clinical psychologists.
  3. B.F. Skinner: You’ve probably heard of the Skinner box — device meant to help with operant conditioning. B.F. Skinner is known as the founder of modern behaviorism in psychology. He studied how to get people to behave in certain ways, performing famous experiments. Skinner was the founder of experimental research psychology, a branch that looked how to change people’s behavior through different types of therapy. Interestingly, Skinner was also a poet and inventor.
  4. Carl Rogers: One of the founders of humanistic psychology, Carl Rogers was known for his person-centered approach to therapy. His techniques have been used in psychotherapy and counseling as a way to focus more on the needs of the patient/client. Rogers worked with different groups in Northern Ireland and South Africa. His work garnered him a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. The techniques used by Rogers are considered influential still, and he is considered one of the most famous clinicians of the 20th century.
  5. Alfred Kinsey: If you think about the psychology of sex, you have to know about Alfred Kinsey. He became famous for really delving into sexual psychology and sexual development. His work was very influential, although considered controversial at its height in the 1940s and 1950s. Kinsey founded an institute for sex research, and it now bears its name. Many other sexologists and therapists have followed in his footsteps. There are plenty who still consider the Kinsey Reports to be profound works of psychological brilliance.
  6. Erik Erikson: One of the founders of of developmental psychology, Erik Erikson is known as a pioneer in human development. You have probably heard the term “identity crisis.” Erikson was the psychologist who invented the phrase. Interestingly, he never actually received a bachelor’s degree, even though his on of the most famous clinical psychologists of all time. He taught at Yale and Harvard, and was known for his work in social psychological development. Erikson’s son, Kai, is a famous sociologist.
  7. Jean Piaget: In terms of the “theory of knowing,” Jean Piaget is considered the pioneer. Piaget was known for his work with children, and tracking their psychological development. He worked out different theories of education, insisting that proper education for children was vital to keep societies from collapsing. His therapies and theories, as well as the epistemological studies he did with children, have made Piaget one of the most famous psychologists of all time.
  8. Albert Ellis: This clinical psychologist is known as the founder of cognitive behavioral theories. Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) in 1955, and this technique is still used today. His theories are widely believed to have revolutionized psychotherapy, helping the shift to behavior-based treatment. Prior to his death in 2007, Ellis was named the “greatest living psychologist” by Psychology Today. He also did work in the fields of sexology and religion.
  9. Albert Bandura: One of the pioneers in social learning was Albert Bandura. He is still alive today, and is considered the greatest living psychologist by some. Bandura’s experiments with Bobo Dolls, and learning aggressive behaviors. His development of social cognitive theory, as well as personality theories, are considered quite forward-thinking and an integral part of the shift from behaviorism to cognitive psychology. Many of Bandura’s findings are still used today by psychologists helping patients with social modeling, and with other therapies.
  10. Kay Redfield Jamison: The youngest person on this list (and the only woman) Kay Jamison is known for her work with bipolar disorder. Jamison is a clinical psychologist who centers her working on helping those with mental problems — especially bipolar disorder — effectively. Jamison has bipolar herself, and has a unique insight into the minds of her patients. She has lectured all over the world, and has authored hundreds of academic articles.

Other Famous Clinical Psychologists

There are, of course, plenty of other famous psychologists who have contributed to the field, and the study, of the human mind and behavior. Here are five more well-known psychologists:

  1. Philip Zimbardo: Known for his famous prison study, Zimbardo looks at humiliation, sadism and authority. His books include The Lucifer Effect and The Time Paradox.
  2. Ivan Pavlov: You probably know this name, Pavlov wasn’t strictly a clinical psychologist. He did famous conditioning experiments with dogs, and his theories were also applied to humans.
  3. Abraham Maslow: Known for his hierarchy of needs, Maslow created a theory that helped explain motivations behind human actions.
  4. R.D. Laing: Worked extensively with mental illness. His departure from the way psychologists normally treated mental illness earned him fame — and controversy.
  5. William Glasser: This internationally known psychologist pioneered choice therapy, which is used as part of reality therapy.