Health psychology is concerned with understanding how biological, psychological, environmental, and cultural factors are involved in physical health and the prevention of illness. Health psychologists work alongside other medical professionals in clinical settings, work on behavior change in public health promotion, teach at universities, and conduct research. Although its early beginnings can be traced to the kindred field of clinical psychology, four different divisions within health psychology and one allied field have developed over time.
Recent advances in psychological, medical, and physiological research have led to a new way of thinking about health and illness. This conceptualization, which has been labeled the biopsychosocial model, views health and illness as the product of a combination of factors including biological characteristics (e.g., genetic predisposition), behavioral factors (e.g., lifestyle, stress, health beliefs), and social conditions (e.g., cultural influences, family relationships, social support).
Four different divisions within health psychology :-
Clinical health psychology (ClHP) is a term for a division of health psychology that reflects the fact that the field was originally a branch of clinical psychology. ClHP is also a major contributor to the field of behavioral medicine within psychiatry. Clinical practice includes education, the techniques of behavior change, and psychotherapy. In some countries, a clinical health psychologist, with additional training, can become a medical psychologist and, thereby, obtain prescription privileges.
Public health psychology (PHP) is population oriented. A major aim of PHP is to investigate potential causal links between psychosocial factors and health at the population level. Public health psychologists present research results to educators, policy makers, and health care providers in order to promote better public health. PHP is allied to other public health disciplines including epidemiology, nutrition, genetics and biostatistics. Some PHP interventions are targeted toward at-risk population groups (e.g., undereducated, single pregnant women who smoke) and not the population as a whole (e.g., all pregnant women).
Community health psychology (CoHP) investigates community factors that contribute to the health and well-being of individuals who live in communities. CoHP also develops community-level interventions that are designed to combat disease and promote physical and mental health. The community often serves as the level of analysis, and is frequently sought as a partner in health-related interventions.
Critical health psychology (CrHP) is concerned with the distribution of power and the impact of power differentials on health experience and behavior, health care systems, and health policy. CrHP prioritizes social justice and the universal right to health for people of all races, genders, ages, and socioeconomic positions. A major concern is health inequalities. The critical health psychologist is an agent of change, not simply an analyst or cataloger. A leading organization in this area is the International Society of Critical Health Psychology.
Health psychology is both a theoretical and applied field. Health psychologists employ diverse research methods. These methods include controlled randomized experiments, quasi-experiments, longitudinal studies, time-series designs, cross-sectional studies, and case-control studies as well as action research. Health psychologists study a broad range of variables including genotype, cardiovascular disease (cardiac psychology), smoking habits, religious beliefs, alcohol use, social support, living conditions, emotional state, social class, and much more. Some health psychologists treat individuals with sleep problems, headaches, alcohol problems, etc. Other health psychologists work to empower community members by helping community members gain control over their health and improve quality of life of entire communities.
Health psychologists conduct research to identify behaviors and experiences that promote health, give rise to illness, and influence the effectiveness of health care. They also recommend ways to improve health care and health-care policy. Health psychologists have worked on developing ways to reduce smoking and improve daily nutrition in order to promote health and prevent illness. They have also studied the association between illness and individual characteristics. For example, health psychology has found a relation between the personality characteristics thrill seeking, impulsiveness, hostility/anger, emotional instability, and depression, on one hand, and high-risk driving, on the other.
Health psychologists also aim to change health behaviors for the dual purpose of helping people stay healthy and helping patients adhere to disease treatment regimens. Health psychologists employ cognitive behavior therapy and applied behavior analysis for that purpose.
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