What is Health Psychology?

Health psychology relates to the discipline of psychology’s specific educational, scientific, and professional contributions to the promotion and maintenance of health, the prevention and treatment of illness, the identification of etiologic and diagnostic correlates of health, illness, and related dysfunction, the analysis and improvement of the health care system, and the formulation of health policy (Matarazzo, 1982. p.4)

What Do Health Psychologists Do?

Considering that negative health behaviors such as smoking, unhealthy diet or inactivity cause physical diseases such as heart disease and diabetes among st others, they try to reduce the risk factors for these diseases and replace these poor health behaviors with functional behaviors. It promotes healthier lifestyles and seeks to find ways to encourage people to improve their health. At the same time, health psychologists design various public health programs to understand and change the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that lead to poor health outcomes. The health psychologist also uses their skills to try to improve the health system.

Where Do Health Psychologists Work?

Health psychologists can work in many areas, including hospitals and community health settings, health research units, local authorities, public health departments and university departments. In addition to these, consultancy companies, education and research institutions also employ health psychologists. At the same time, health psychologists can work collaboratively with other professionals in the health field, and they can also collaborate with people outside the field.

Who Do Health Psychologists Work With?

Health psychologists work with children, adults, and older adults or with groups, or work indirectly through the development of remote approaches such as media or online interventions. Some common conditions include health anxiety, and chronic pain, stress and anxiety-related disorders, cancer, fibromyalgia, diabetes, urinary incontinence and irritable bowel syndrome.

What Do Health Psychologists Focus On?

The field of health psychology, which is one of the rising trends in psychology, focuses on the development of health and health systems / practices or the prevention and treatment of diseases. According to the American Psychological Association, the aim of health psychology is to better understand health and illness, to examine the psychological factors that affect health, and to contribute to the general health system. The research and application areas cover both physiological and psychological health, such as stress, smoking, eating habits, risky sexual behaviors, aging, severe diseases and surgical processes, and the effects of diseases.

What’s Treatment Like?

The main goal of health psychologists is to help you manage your health and improve your quality of life. Since all patients have different backgrounds, each patient’s own treatment history and plan is different from each other. At this point, during the treatment, it is worked in cooperation with physiotherapists, dietitians or medical doctors, depending on the condition of the person. In general, the process that starts by focusing on specific short-term problems can continue in the long-term by addressing deeper problems. There may be problems to be worked on at a certain point of the treatment, difficulties in following the doctor’s recommendations, chronic pain that affects your daily life more than normal, and processes experienced before or after the surgery.

Who Is The Health Psychology Treatment Suitable For?

Health psychology-focused treatments may be suitable for patients who cannot live their daily lives as they wish while struggling with their illnesses. People who feel depressed due to health problems during the illness or treatment process, have high health-related stress, do not have a social support system in this process, or have difficulty adapting to life with a chronic condition can benefit from such treatment.

Is Such a Service Expensive?

Health psychology services may vary depending on the country you are in and the skills or experience of the counselor you choose. If your health insurance covers this service, you can get treatment free of charge. However, it would be best for you to have a direct conversation with the person you will be consulting for exact information. Despite all this, the investment you will make in yourself and your health is the most valuable under any circumstance.

How Can a Health Psychologist Help With COVID-19?

Health psychologists are of great importance in dealing with the coronavirus epidemic. Health psychologists can help implement preventive practices such as maintaining physical distance, wearing masks, using disinfectants, identifying COVID-19 symptoms and following up on subsequent processes, working on the effects of vaccination on both body and mental health, or supporting the state’s vaccination policies. In addition, it can support individuals and society in overcoming the psychological processes such as loss, grief, trauma and anxiety brought about by this disease in a healthier way and in adapting to the “new order” that this disease has brought into our lives.

If you think a health psychologist can help you, you can book an appointment here.

Ezgi Nur Budak, who continues her master’s degree in Clinical and Health Psychology, is a volunteer in Willingness.