In this lesson, we will learn about the field of health psychology and who it can benefit. Both the purpose of this specialty and how treatment goals are determined will be discussed.
Rick recently hurt his back at work. He's in a lot of pain, but doesn't want to become dependent on painkillers, so he's looking for other ways to manage his pain. He is seeing a psychologist who is teaching him relaxation techniques. This helps Rick avoid becoming stressed. This is a good thing, because when Rick is stressed, he tenses up and the pain becomes worse.
Like Rick, all of us will have to deal with an injury or illness at some point in our lives. The person we would traditionally see in this situation is a medical doctor who would diagnose us, prescribe medication, and treat our symptoms. However, other help is available to you. Some physical problems can actually be caused, or made worse, by certain emotional, mental, or social conditions.
Health psychology is a specialty area of psychology that focuses on how all facets of our lives impact our physical health. Psychologists in this field don't treat the disease itself, but try to find ways to help the person who is suffering improve his or her life by better understanding how the mind and body work together.
A health psychologist focuses on helping the person with the disease rather than the disease itself.
As we saw in our example of Rick, health psychologists provide a non-traditional approach to understanding our health. One purpose of this field is to inform and educate people, helping them understand that they can take control of their overall well-being. When patients understand how and why their bodies are responding to physical problems, they are better able to accept solutions. Health psychologists can help patients like Rick manage chronic conditions or help them find ways to avoid preventable diseases by living a healthy lifestyle. Ideally, health psychology is where medicine and psychology work together to mediate the relationship between disease, thought, and behavior.
The goal of health psychology is to apply health education, information, prevention, and control in ways that will alleviate patients' physical symptoms and improve their lives. The main approach used to set goals in health psychology is the biosocial model. This is the idea that our state of health is the result of a combination of biological, psychological, and social issues. Biological factors that impact our health are inherited genetic predispositions or personality traits. Our lifestyle choices, or how we choose to act upon biological factors, are the psychological factors that influence our health. Finally, the social factors that impact our health are things like cultural beliefs, family relationships, or religious affiliations.
Let's say Rick has a genetic predisposition for addiction and an introverted personality. He tends to sit at home alone where he has few distractions from his pain other than the painkillers his doctor prescribed him. He avoids taking the painkillers as much as possible, but is becoming depressed because he has limited social contact while he is off work due to the injury. Rick's treatment goals might include finding ways to reduce the amount of painkillers he takes through alternative ways to cope with the pain or finding ways to increase his social support system.
How might a health psychologist help a soldier who has lost a limb in combat, or a young mother who is diagnosed with terminal cancer?
The branch of psychology that focuses on how different parts of our lives impact our physical well-being is called health psychology. The purpose of health psychology is to educate, inform, and enable patients to mitigate physical health problems. It is a non-traditional approach to health through understanding how the mind and body work together. It can help patients manage chronic conditions or find ways to prevent disease.
Health psychology uses the biosocial model to examine different areas of a person's life and set individualized goals. The biosocial model is the idea that our state of health is the result of biological, psychological, and social issues.