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Counseling & Health Psychology

Psychology and Counseling Databases

Searching Databases in Psychology and Counseling

In the field of Psychology, choosing the correct terms is vital to a successful search.  Any psychiatric condition, therapy, or drug may have multiple names (e.g. commercial, popular, clinical) which can make searching confusing. Be sure to find out all names they are referred to as; you may need to search all of these, depending on the database. Clinical names/terms are the most useful for advanced searching in databases such as PubMed.

  • Many psychiatric conditions have multiple names, both clinical and popular, and can be divided into a number of sub-groups. 
  • The same applies to medications, which belong to classes, and possess a clinical name and a trade name (e.g. The Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Prozac is the commercial name for Fluoxetine). 
  • Various treatments and therapies also follow the same rules (e.g. Counseling can also be referred to as therapy, and there are a number of different types of both (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy).
  • Many of these terms are often abbreviated, (e.g. SSRI for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, GAD for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, ACT for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy).

If you want to find every relevant article, make sure you include all these terms in your search!

Remember that research databases, like PubMed (MEDLINE) and Embase, assign subject terms to specific concepts or things to help you focus your searches. In PubMed these are referred to as MeSH (Medical Subject Heading) terms.  We hope you'll find this list useful for current and future searches in the field of Psychology. 

Broadest Search Term Counseling Mental disorders Psychotherapy
More Specific Directive counseling Anxiety disorders Cognitive behavioral therapy
Most Specific Motivational interviewing Obsessive-compulsive disorder Acceptance and commitment therapy

Please note that there are a number of other MeSH terms on each level. You can search for other MeSH terms here.


The PsycARTICLES database enables easy search building in a similar vein to the "MeSH" search in PubMed.  To find the subject heading that is most salient to your question, just select thesaurus from the top menu bar on the PsycARTICLES home screen, and type in the term whose corresponding subject heading you wish to find. 

Unlike PubMed, PsycARTICLES requires the addition of quotation marks in order to search for an entire phrase.

To search within particular fields, PsycARTICLES requires you to preface your search term or phrase with a 2 letter code. 

By selecting "Advanced Search" you can choose from a dropdown list of codes, but some useful ones to remember are:

  • AU-Author
  • SU-Subject
  • DE-Exact Subject (This comes in handy when you know the exact subject heading, or have located it using the thesaurus.  Otherwise it's best to use SU)
  • TI-Title
  • AB-Abstract

For example, to search for depression anywhere in the abstract, one must type AB Depression.  Using this feature allows you to very finely tune your search to find the exact articles you need.  You could search for depression in the abstract, combined with a particular author, allowing you to find all papers they have written on the subject.

Psychology and Counseling Monographs


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