Health Psychology is the study of psychological, behavioural and cultural factors in health, illness and healthcare.
Currently, there are only three universities in Australia offering Masters in Health Psychology, a recognised speciality in professional psychology. As you would expect, the demand for the expertise of a health psychologist is high.
Health psychologists may work in two main areas:
- health promotion, which involves the prevention of illness and the promotion of health-related behaviour;
- and clinical health psychology, which relates to the application of psychological principles to the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of illness.
Psychological factors including stress, cognition, beliefs and behaviour can affect an individual’s health. By understanding these factors, health psychologists can improve health outcomes by working directly with individuals; or indirectly, with large scale public health programs focused on behavioural change related to exercise, smoking, drug and alcohol consumption, and prevention.
What does a Health Psychologist do?
Furthermore, health psychologists may provide education to healthcare professionals, advising the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that contribute to ill health, and how these can be altered.
Health psychology is about working towards promoting health through behavioural change and preventing illness. Additionally, health psychologists investigate how disease affects the individual’s psychological wellbeing and work to improve the individual’s quality of life, by treating stressors, including depression and reduced self-esteem, which may prolong a disease.
Health psychologists are involved in the promotion of positive health behaviours aimed at reducing risk factors associated with chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. Furthermore, if you are caring for an individual with a chronic condition, it can be quite distressing – health psychologists can help parents dealing with chronically ill children, for example, or partners caring for ill relatives.
A health psychologist may help individuals to cope with illness; motivate individuals to follow medical advice and medication; provide support on controlling pain, and changing poor health habits. They also develop health care strategies that foster emotional and physical wellbeing. The field of health psychology also includes measuring the impact of behaviour on health, and creating ways to help people make the behaviour choices that induce good health and prevent illness. For example:
- What influences you to choose a good food over a bad food?
- What motivates you to exercise?
- Why are women at risk of breast cancer not getting regular mammograms?
A health psychologist can help you with these issues and more.
Author: Cassandra Gist, BPsych (Hons), MPsych, MAPS.
Brisbane Psychologist Cassandra Gist has a Masters in Health Psychology, and is able to treat clients aged from two years old right through to adulthood. She is experienced in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as children and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Cassandra Gist, try online booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.