How to Become a Health Psychologist
Health psychology is a specialty in the field that focuses on how social, biological, and psychological factors affect illness and health. Health psychologists strive to educate and inform patients to seize control of their health and live a happier, healthier life. This mental health professional works at a place where psychology and medicine intersect, thereby helping patients to enhance their quality of life.
If you are interested in this career, learn more below about what health psychologists do, where they work, job outlook, and more.
What Is Health Psychology?
Health psychology is defined by the American Psychological Association as investigating and implementing clinical services for all populations and settings to enhance health and well being, and to treat, manage, and prevent illness and disability. (APA.org).
Health psychology is viewed as the intersection of social, psychological, cultural, and biological factors, and applies this understanding to professional psychology activities, including:
- Clinical services
- Consulting with, supervising, and educating other healthcare providers and psychology professionals
- Advising policymakers, the general public, organizations, and institutions
Health psychologists have intimate knowledge of how memory, learning, perception, cognition, and motivation influence health-related behaviors that affect physical illness, disability, and injury. Some of the common areas addressed by health psychology include weight management, smoking, pain management, psychological adjustment to disease and illness, and adherence to medical treatments.
A health psychologist may, for example, work with a person with insomnia to help them to devise a regular routine at bedtime, reduce caffeine intake, and participate in relaxing activities before going to sleep.
Or, a person suffering from chronic pain from a car accident may benefit from seeing a health psychologist to better deal with pain without resorting to dangerous pain killers. (Psychcentral.com).
What Do Health Psychologists Do?
Essential skills and procedures that health psychologists use include:
- Assessment: Includes interviews, observing behavior, personality assessment, reviewing medical records, and studying biological parameters related to diseases.
- Intervention: Psychotherapy, health promotion, and behavioral interventions given to individuals, families, and groups.
- Consultation: Working with the broader healthcare team, including family members; program development; and participating in multidisciplinary teams.
- Evaluation: Using research methodologies to evaluate and develop practices based
Health psychologists also work heavily in clinical settings as they do behavioral assessments and personality tests. Another key area of work is in research, where health psychologists study a variety of health-related problems, such as how to deal with pain and illness, and how to get patients to seek treatments they need. (Verywellmind.com).
The APA reports health psychologists always will be needed to conduct research. Keeping health costs low is vital for policymakers and healthcare stakeholders. This is an area where health psychologist researchers can provide powerful insights. You may study what causes health problems and how to prevent them, or look at why some groups do not get the care they need. (APA.org).
Where Do Health Psychologists Work?
As a health psychologist, you may work in many settings: hospitals, community health centers: health research facilities, public health agencies, and universities. Consulting companies may also hire you as a health psychologist to offer training, health intervention, and research expertise. (Careers.BPS.org.uk).
Health psychologists often work with other medical professionals including primary care physicians, nurses, nutritionists, surgeons, and physical therapists.
Many health psychologists work as private consultants with their own companies, contracting with large companies to help their employees take better care of their health. Companies have incentives to hire such healthcare professionals: Healthy employees are more productive, more focused, use health insurance less, and take less time off.
What Is the Job Outlook for Health Psychologists?
The job outlook for psychologists overall is robust, with 14% job growth expected in all areas of psychology by 2028, which is much faster than average. Employment for clinical and health psychologists should rise because of more demand for their services in schools, mental health centers, and social service agencies. Health psychologists also are needed by insurance companies to help to keep healthcare costs under control. (BLS.gov).
You can expect an excellent job market for health psychologists for the next decade as the demand for healthcare services rise.
How Can You Become a Health Psychologist?
The first step to becoming a health psychologist is to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. Next, you need to earn a master’s degree in health psychology and complete several thousand hours of clinical experience, depending on your state. With a master’s degree and licensure, you may work as a research assistant or behavior specialist under the guidance of a licensed psychologist. (APA.org).
Earning a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in health psychology will offer you the most job options. You can work in private practice as a health psychologist, or work as a consultant for large companies. A common occupation for health psychologists is as a consultant helping employees to manage weight, prevent obesity, reduce, pain, and help people deal with diseases.
What Do Exams and Licensing Involve?
To practice any specialty of psychology, you must be licensed by your state’s licensing board. However, professionals who work at a university, federal or state agency, research lab, or a company might be exempt from getting a license in some states. But this varies by state, so it is critical to review your state’s laws regarding licensure exemptions. (APA.org).
All US states require applicants to pass the EPPP, which is a 225-question test on the most critical areas of psychology, such as social and biological bases of behavior, and assessment and diagnosis. Passing scores for the EPPP are established by each state. Most states require 70% or 500 on the computer examination.
Do you think that a career in health psychology is for you? Please contact us with any questions you have about the field. Also, review the online health psychology programs we highlight on this site. With all this information at your fingertips, you should have everything you need to get rolling on your new psychology career.