Health Psychologist

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Health psychologists study how environmental, physical, and psychological factors impact human health. The brief summary that follows provides an overview of health psychology careers.

What Do Health Psychologists Do?

Health psychologists have numerous duties. Specific job duties depend on work settings and specialties. Those in clinical settings typically counsel patients with health problems, while those employed at universities work as researchers.

  • Clinical Work: Health psychologists working in clinical settings interview patients, administer treatments, and conduct behavioral and personality tests. These specialists also setup group counseling sessions and confront individuals with substance abuse problems. Many people meet with clinical health psychologists to learn how to manage stress, quit smoking, and improve overall health.
  • Research: Many health psychologists work as researchers. The research they conduct is meant to determine the link between mental and physical health, find ways to alleviate chronic pain, etc.
  • Public Policy Work: Many health psychologists work for government agencies and non-profit organizations. They usually collaborate with legislators on public health issues, participate in public health campaigns, and education poor people about preventative health.

Where do Health Psychologists Work?

Health psychologists work at hospitals, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private practices. Those who specialize usually work at private counseling clinics. Health psychologists often specialize in substance abuse, addiction recovery, pediatrics, oncology, pain management, and smoking cessation. Many health psychologists organize health awareness campaigns from community health clinics.

Training and Education

Health psychologists typically hold PhDs in psychology. Most health psychologists hold undergraduate degrees in psychology prior to attending health psychology graduate programs. Health psychology graduate programs are available at numerous universities.

Clinical health psychologists are required to be licensed in most states. Licenses can be obtained after completing a yearlong internship. Board certification is administered by the American Board of Professional Psychology.

Entry-level health psychology jobs can be filled by individuals with bachelor’s degrees, but most organizations seek applicants with graduate degrees. Entry-jobs can be found at community health centers, psychiatric hospitals, and correctional facilities. Numerous opportunities are available to health psychologists with graduate degrees.

Subfields Within Health Psychology

The following are health psychology sub-specialties:

  • Clinical Health Psychology: Clinical health psychologists specialize in psychotherapy and behavioral modification therapy.
  • Community Health Psychology: Community health psychologists participate in community health initiatives designed to prevent major health problems. They also distribute surveys, consult elected officials, and speak to groups.
  • Public Health Psychology: Public health psychologists participate in research programs designed to improve public health and publish research conclusions in scholarly journals.
  • Occupational Health Psychology: Occupational health psychologists attempt to determine how work, specifically work-related stress, contributes to physical and mental health problems.

Job Outlook for Health Psychologists

Job growth in this field is projected to grow at a steady rate during the next few years. More hospital and medical clinic administrators are staffing their facilities with health psychologists. Numerous jobs are available at universities, government agencies, clinical settings, rehab centers, and psychiatric hospitals.


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