Health Psychology

Health Psychology and Therapy

Health psychology is concerned with understanding how biological, psychological, environmental, and cultural factors are involved in physical health and illness. Health psychologists work alongside other medical professionals in clinical settings, work on behavior change in public health promotion, teach at universities, and conduct research. Although its early beginnings can be traced to the kindred field of clinical psychology, four different divisions within health psychology and one allied field have developed over time. The four divisions include clinical health psychology, public health psychology, community health psychology, and critical health psychology. The allied field is occupational health psychology. Organizations closely associated with the field of health psychology include Division 38 of the American Psychological Association and the Division of Health Psychology of the British Psychological Society.

Recent advances in psychological, medical, and physiological research have led to a new way of thinking about health and illness. This conceptualization, which has been labeled the biopsychosocial model, views health and illness as the product of a combination of factors including biological characteristics (e.g., genetic predisposition), behavioral factors (e.g., lifestyle, stress, health beliefs), and social conditions (e.g., cultural influences, family relationships, social support).

Psychologists who strive to understand how biological, behavioral, and social factors influence health and illness are called health psychologists. The term “health psychology” is often used synonymously with the terms “behavioral medicine” and “medical psychology”. Health psychologists work with many different health care professionals (e.g., physicians, dentists, nurses, physician’s assistants, dietitians, social workers, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists, and chaplains) to conduct research and provide clinical assessments and treatment services.
Many health psychologists focus on prevention research and interventions designed to promote health and reduce the risk of disease. While many health psychologists provide clinical services as part of their duties, others function in non-clinical roles, primarily involving teaching and research. Leading journals include Health Psychology, the Journal of Health Psychology, the British Journal of Health Psychology, and Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.
Clinical health psychology (ClHP) is a term that refers to the application of scientific knowledge, derived from the field of health psychology, to clinical questions that may arise across the spectrum of health care. ClHP is one of many specialty practice area for clinical psychologists. It is also a major contributor to the prevention focused field of behavioral health and the treatment oriented field of behavioral medicine. Clinical practice includes education, the techniques of behavior change, and psychotherapy. In some countries, a clinical health psychologist, with additional training, can become a medical psychologist and, thereby, obtain prescription privileges.
Public health psychology (PHP) is population oriented. A major aim of PHP is to investigate potential causal links between psychosocial factors and health at the population level. Public health psychologists present research results to educators, policy makers, and health care providers in order to promote better public health. PHP is allied to other public health disciplines including epidemiology, nutrition, genetics and biostatistics. Some PHP interventions are targeted toward at-risk population groups (e.g., undereducated, single pregnant women who smoke) and not the population as a whole (e.g., all pregnant women).
Community health psychology (CoHP) investigates community factors that contribute to the health and well-being of individuals who live in communities. CoHP also develops community-level interventions that are designed to combat disease and promote physical and mental health. The community often serves as the level of analysis, and is frequently sought as a partner in health-related interventions.
Critical health psychology (CrHP) is concerned with the distribution of power and the impact of power differentials on health experience and behavior, health care systems, and health policy. CrHP prioritizes social justice and the universal right to health for people of all races, genders, ages, and socioeconomic positions. A major concern is health inequalities. The critical health psychologist is an agent of change, not simply an analyst or cataloger. A leading organization in this area is the International Society of Critical Health Psychology.

Health psychology is both a theoretical and applied field. Health psychologists employ diverse research methods. These methods include controlled randomized experiments, quasi-experiments, longitudinal studies, time-series designs, cross-sectional studies, and case-control studies as well as action research. Health psychologists study a broad range of variables including genotype, cardiovascular disease (cardiac psychology), smoking habits, religious beliefs, alcohol use, social support, living conditions, emotional state, social class, and much more. Some health psychologists treat individuals with sleep problems, headaches, alcohol problems, etc. Other health psychologists work to empower community members by helping community members gain control over their health and improve quality of life of entire communities.[1]

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Source:
[1]- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_psychology

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