Careers in Health Psychology

Psychological health has gained recognition in the last fifteen years or so after stress and mental illness rates have reportedly been on the rise. Public awareness of mental health is also increasing as people are taking an interest in the psychological aspects of how the mind reacts to coping with stress or illness. Health psychology, a relatively new field, has gained momentum as patients are looking to gain insight into the way their mind works, and how it affects their body systems. Stress is known to cause physical symptoms such as high-blood pressure and digestive upset and is a leading contributor to heart disease.iso 45003

Health psychologists work with patients to reduce stress and increase well-being using a variety of methods. Health psychologists differ from other psychologists in the sense that they use the bio-psychosocial model to focus on addressing how biology, psychological issues and social issues influence health.

Clinical psychologists mainly focus on preventing psychological distress; cognitive psychologists are aimed at understanding mental processes; developmental psychologists study psychological changes over a lifetime; and social psychologists focus on how behaviors are influenced by other people. Health psychologists take into account all of the above, but also take into consideration disease prevention, the mind-body connection and even issues pertaining to why patients sometimes make self -destructive choices.

Becoming a health psychologist requires an education in psychology, combined with knowledge of the body and health in general. If a student is interested in pursuing a career in health psychology, it is first necessary to go to a regionally accredited college to earn a bachelor’s degree. Majoring in psychology is recommended, and it is useful to take elective courses such as abnormal psychology, social psychology, behavioral therapy, and community psychology in combination with an internship or work experience in a psychological or health setting.

Obtaining a master’s degree is also recommended as it furthers the level of expertise in health psychology. While pursuing health psychology in graduate school, numerous opportunities are available to gain knowledge and professionalism through practicum, internship and supervised research endeavors.

Health psychologists usually work in a variety of medical environments including clinics, hospitals, private practice, schools, universities, rehabilitation centers and more. Salaries vary and depend on several factors such as work setting, degree and position held.

Getting the academic training that is needed to pursue health psychology can be a challenging but worthwhile process. With excellent academic skills, interest in research and a love of people, health psychology may be a rewarding experience.

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