Health Psychology, Behavioral Medicine
Health psychologists participate in health care in a multitude of settings including primary care programs, inpatient medical units, and specialized health care programs such as pain management, rehabilitation, women's health, oncology, smoking cessation, headache management, and various other programs. They also work in colleges and universities, corporations, and for governmental agencies.
Health Psychologist can focus their careers on either clinical activities or research.
Clinical Activities: Assessment approaches often include cognitive and behavioral assessment, psychophysiological assessment, clinical interviews, demographic surveys, objective and projective personality assessment, and various other clinical and research-oriented protocols. Interventions often include stress management, relaxation therapies, biofeedback, psychoeducation about normal and patho-physiological processes, ways to cope with disease, and cognitive-behavioral and other psychotherapeutic interventions. Healthy people are taught preventive health behaviors. Both individual and group interventions are utilized. Frequently, health psychology interventions focus upon buffering the effect of stress on health by promoting enhanced coping or improved social support utilization.
Research: Health psychologists are on the leading edge of research focusing on the biopsychosocial model in areas such as HIV, oncology, psychosomatic illness, compliance with medical regimens, health promotion, and the effect of psychological, social, and cultural factors on numerous specific disease processes (e.g., diabetes, cancer, hypertension and coronary artery disease, chronic pain, and sleep disorders). Research in health psychology examines: the causes and development of illness, methods to help individuals develop healthy lifestyles to promote good health and prevent illness, the treatment people get for their medical problems, the effectiveness with which people cope with and reduce stress and pain, biopsychosocial connections with immune functioning, and factors in the recovery, rehabilitation, and psychosocial adjustment of patients with serious health problems.
The opportunities for careers in health psychology in the United States are quite good. Medical settings, particularly medical centers, have greatly expanded their employment of psychologists. Aside from medical centers, health psychologists often work in colleges and universities, medical schools, health maintenance organizations, rehabilitation centers, pain management centers, public health agencies, hospitals, and private consultation/practice offices. In addition to the specific content skills which psychologists offer to patients and staff in the medical community, psychologists' unique training often makes the health psychologist an asset to the medical team with regard to quality assurance methods (making certain that health care is helpful and cost-effective), research, writing, grant-writing, statistical, communication, and team development skills.
Training for Health Psychology Careers: Health psychologists typically hold a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in psychology. Applied health psychologists are licensed for the independent practice of psychology in areas such as clinical and counseling psychology, and board certification is available in health psychology through the American Board of Professional Psychology.
Often, psychologists preparing for a career in health psychology obtain general psychology training at the undergraduate and doctoral levels, but then receive specialty training at the postdoctoral or internship level. Some programs have been developed which offer specialized training in health psychology at undergraduate and graduate levels.
Above data from American Psychology Association, 2010
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Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology program in Health Psychology at Northcentral University is designed to familiarize you with the latest theory, research and practice in the field of health psychology, and will help prepare you to become a leader who has the ability to bring about positive changes to health in today's diverse communities. As a health psychology student, you will explore the important interaction between the body and the mind, and the factors that influence physical and psychological health, such as stress and nutrition. You will also explore complementary and alternative medical approaches, and address important issues such as eating disorders and medical compliance. Through our Applied Experiential Approach to learning, you will be challenged to develop your own solutions to today's psychosocial health problems as you conduct research related to health psychology.
After graduation, you may serve as a health consultant to hospitals or agencies, help individuals develop healthy lifestyles, or provide the psychological perspective to a team of health care providers. Whether you choose one of these fields, or one of the many other fascinating careers open to health psychologists, by working One-to-One with our 100% doctoral faculty at NCU, you can be assured that you receive the feedback and support you need to excel in your field and contribute to your profession and community.