Health psychologists specialize in psychological, physical, and environmental factors that affect physical and mental health. The following summary will provide a simple overview of career education requirements and a few duties of health psychologists.
What Do Health Psychologists Do?
Health psychologists have many job responsibilities. Specific responsibilities typically depend on specialties and work environments. Some health psychologists assist patients avoid health problems and encourage healthy lifestyles in clinical settings, while many conduct research at universities.
- Clinical Work: Health psychologists specializing in clinical work administer personality and behavioral tests, conduct interviews, and recommend treatments. Many organize interventions and group therapy sessions. While assisting patients, health psychologists teach stress reduction strategies, recommend tips to quit smoking, and encourage healthy lifestyles.
- Research: Some health psychologists specialize in research intended to improve patient evaluation and treatment, determine factors affecting health, uncover personal motivations for seeking medical assistance, and develop therapies for people struggling with chronic pain.
- Public Policy Work: Certain health psychologists are employed at non-profit groups or government agencies. These specialists typically consult with elected officials about public health problems, organize public awareness campaigns, and assist people living in poverty.
Where do Health Psychologists Work?
Health psychologists are employed at universities, private businesses, health clinics, non-profit groups, government agencies, and hospitals. Specialists typically work at private clinics. Health psychology specialties include smoking cessation, women’s health, pain management, oncology, pediatrics, addiction prevention, and substance abuse recovery. Some health psychologists work at community health centers organizing community health initiatives and assisting the underprivileged.
Training and Education
Health psychologists usually hold doctorate degrees in psychology or related fields. Many health psychologists earn bachelor’s degrees in psychology before obtaining graduate degrees in health psychology. Many universities administer health psychology graduate degree programs. Students should consider whether they want to specialize in clinical work or research since certain programs are better designed than others for preparing students for these specialties.
Most states require health psychologists aspiring to practice clinically to complete a one year supervised internship. The American Board of Professional Psychology provides board certification in this field.
Even though most organizations prefer to hire health psychologists with doctorate degrees, entry-level jobs in this field can be obtained with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Few opportunities exist for people holding bachelor’s degrees, but jobs are available at correctional facilities, mental health centers, and community mental health clinics. More opportunities are available for individuals with master’s degrees, but health psychologists with master’s degrees are typically supervised by clinical psychologists.
Subfields Within Health Psychology
Health psychologists can specialize in these subfields:
- Clinical Health Psychology: Clinical health psychologists administer behavioral modification treatment and psychotherapy.
- Community Health Psychology: Community health psychologists organize community health programs intended to provide citizens with information about healthy behaviors. They also conduct surveys, meet with groups, and consult with legislative representatives.
- Public Health Psychology: Public health psychologists conduct research to better understand public health problems, consult with government officials, and write about health issues affecting society.
- Occupational Health Psychology: Occupational health psychology is a relatively new subfield, where specialists attempt to understand how mental and physical health is tied to work-related factors.
Job Outlook for Health Psychologists
Job growth for health psychologists is projected to increase steadily through the near future as more hospitals and medical clinics hire these specialists. Many opportunities are available for health psychologists in the private sector, substance abuse rehabilitation centers, clinical settings, mental health centers, government agencies, and colleges and universities.
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