An example from Health Psychology

An example from Health Psychology

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Is bolded "less" right? Shouldn't it be more?

Now, let's suppose we did our cross-sectional study and found that the cholesterol content of adults' diets decreased with age. We would then like to know why this is so. One possible answer is that people change their diets as they get older because they feel more vulnerable to heart disease. So we asked the oldest group, using the retrospective approach, if they feel more vulnerable and eat less high-cholesterol food today than they used to. Sure enough, they said yes. But another reason for the current age differences in diet could be that the older adults never ate diets as high in cholesterol as those of the younger adults. So we asked the oldest group to describe the diets they ate 10 or 20 years ago. The diets they described contained less cholesterol than their current diets (which we already knew) and the current diets of the 35- and 45-year-olds in our study! This finding reflects the fact that the older subjects grew up at a different time, when food preferences or availability may have been different.

Sarafino, E. P., & Smith, T. W. (2014). Health psychology: Biopsychosocial interactions. John Wiley & Sons.

Health Psychology

Health Psychologists apply psychological knowledge and skills in clinical and community settings. They contribute to the prevention of illness and the promotion of health and wellbeing. They design and implement interventions to improve the experience and outcomes for those who are ill or disabled and for their carers – as well as helping to shape the policies and systems which affect healthcare.

Our particular ethos is to adopt a critical and holistic understanding of the experience of health and wellbeing, recognising the importance of social, cultural and economic factors. The significance of our psychosocial world has been highlighted during the COVID-19 crisis – where we’ve witnessed the importance of social support networks and economic assets to the physical and mental wellbeing of different demographic groups. The pandemic has also shown the impact of national policy and community focus on the health of frontline workers themselves.

Study style

You’ll explore a range of theory and knowledge to underpin your understanding of the role of psychology in healthcare. You’ll also develop the personal skills you need for professional work in the sector. The course takes evidence-based practice as a framework for advancing your research skills – assessing issues, designing interventions and evaluating outcomes. You’ll analyse public health issues using large data sets, and using narrative and other qualitative methods in health psychology research.

Assessment has been designed to develop the knowledge and skills required of critically reflective and ethical scientist-practitioners, and where possible they reflect the type of real-world activities and problems faced by professional health psychologists. Tasks for assessment include preparation of reflexive portfolios, systematic reviews, case studies, public health reports and presentations, and intervention and evaluation design.

Future Direction of Health Psychology

According to Health Psychology 5 th edition (2016) the comprehensive intervention model is 𠇊 model that pools and coordinates the medical and psychological expertise in some well-defined area of medical practice so as to make all available technology and expertise available to a patient the pain management program is one example of a comprehensive intervention model”. Comprehensive intervention models are typically designed for specific diseases, disorders, and concerted attacks on risk factors. Comprehensive intervention models can take many different shapes, for instance pain management programs where all treatments for pain are organized in one place so that separate pain management regimens can be established for each individual patient (Taylor, 2015, p. 309). Hospice care is also considered to be a comprehensive intervention model because they offer palliative management technologies and psychotherapeutic technologies to terminally ill patients. Residential and outpatient coordinated rehabilitation programs for patients with specific conditions or diseases which help patients with multiple health habits simultaneously are also considered to be a comprehensive intervention model.

Comprehensive intervention models offer the highest quality of care to the patients that they care for. However comprehensive intervention models have begun to fall out of favor due to the high level of cost involved in the models and the treatments. For instance, hospitals have dismantled their pain centers due to a lack of funds to support the pain management strategies and techniques involved in the treatment (Taylor, 2015, p. 310). While hospitals have had to do away with their comprehensive intervention models not all organization have suffered from this dilemma. For instance, hospice is an organization that is able to continue to operate their comprehensive intervention model through the use of outside funding. Hospice receives funding from government programs, private insurance, donations by corporations, grants donated by charitable foundations, and through donations from individuals (Hospice Patients Alliance, 2016). Hospices also receive reimbursement from insurance providers like Medicare, Medicaid, and other private insurance for the care that the hospice provides to the terminally ill patient.

Based on my personal knowledge of health psychology I feel that the comprehensive intervention model is an appropriate patient care model. However I also feel that it needs to evolve and change in order to remain an appropriate treatment model. The comprehensive intervention model focuses on providing the highest quality of care for each patient by compiling information on numerous techniques and treatments however with the current pressure to reform US health care and contain its costs, the model needs to find a way to provide care while reducing costs. While it is optimal to provide each patient with the highest quality of care it is perhaps better to be able to afford to provide all patients with both quality and affordable care. In order to do this the comprehensive intervention model should consider and attempt less expensive treatment strategies first and move on to the more expensive ones only if the less expensive ones prove to be ineffective. The comprehensive intervention model could work to incorporate the placebo effect into the treatment options. The placebo effect challenges the foundation of modern medicine as it proves that certain treatments are not effective because of their nature, but rather the patient’s belief in their effectiveness. The placebo effect presents the idea of the mind being able to control the body when the patient has a strong enough belief in the outcome that will occur. The comprehensive intervention models could begin patient treatment with placebo treatments and if the placebo proves to be an effective treatment then more expensive treatments could be avoided this would reduce the cost of the models and allow for the treatment of more patients without the fear of running out of funding.


Understanding and improving health-related behavior is critical to the future of public health and to the well-being of individuals, and has become central to public health activities. While policies, laws, and regulations can affect health behaviors, there are also many individual factors that must be considered in these public health efforts.

Change is incremental. Many people have practiced a lifetime of less than optimal health behaviors of one sort or another. It is unreasonable to expect that significant and lasting changes will occur during a short period of time. Public health programs need to identify and maximize the benefits of positive change, pull participants along the continuum of change, and consider changes in educational programs and environmental supports to help people maintain changes over the long term.

(see also: Alcohol Use and Abuse Behavioral Change Behavioral Determinants Behavioral Strategies for Reducing Traffic Crashes Community Organization Family Planning Behavior Health Belief Model Illness and Sick-Role Behavior Preventive Health Behavior Smoking Behavior Social Cognitive Theory Transtheoretical Model of Stages of Change )

About the Clinical Health Concentration

The Clinical Health concentration will train psychologists in the science of psychology, as well as train them to deliver clinical services in settings such as primary health care hospital teams, rehabilitation, psychiatry, oncology, cardiology, geriatrics, pain clinics, sleep medicine, pediatrics, health maintenance organizations, community mental health agencies, and in the private practice of health psychology.

Graduates of the Clinical Health concentration will:

  • be competent in the assessment of a biopsychosocial factors affecting an individual’s overall health and well-being including psychological, cognitive, behavioral, social, environmental, and biological/physical factors
  • be skilled in developing and delivering psychological interventions to promote prevention and wellness and treat psychological conditions that affect health and illness
  • be skilled in a broad range of psychological interventions and techniques, ranging from psychotherapy to targeted interventions such as stress-management, relaxation training, biofeedback, health promotion, and problem solving therapy
  • be skilled in collaboration, consultation, and teamwork, which are essential to working within a multidisciplinary team of health professionals such as medical doctors (e.g. family medicine, psychiatry, neurology, cardiology), nurses, physician assistants, occupational therapists, physical therapists, exercise physiologists, nutritionists, social workers, counselors, speech-language pathologists, and public health professionals
  • be expert in contemporary research so as to rigorously conduct and apply scientific methods to understanding health and illness and be able to select and evaluate clinical treatment strategies based on established scientific knowledge and empirical support.

The clinical health concentration at East Carolina University is accredited by the American Psychological Association as a clinical psychology program. The clinical health concentration is based on a mentorship model. Students are commonly admitted to perform research with a specific faculty mentor. The mentorship model allows for a rich training experience.

Additional information about our our policies regarding student selection, program preparation, and admission policies can be found in our FAQs.

Specialty training in clinical neuropsychology is also available for interested doctoral students.

Virtual Admissions Interview Day

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and risks associated with travel and large group gatherings, the clinical health concentration Admissions Interview Day will be virtual this year. Please check back shortly for the date of the Virtual Admissions Interview Day. We look forward to seeing your application.

Please note: The GRE General Test will not be required by the Department of Psychology for the 2021-2022 admission cycle (i.e., for students applying for Fall 2022 enrollment). The department is piloting the elimination of the GRE requirement effective with the Fall 2021 application cycle.

Application deadline for the fall of 2022 is December 1, 2021.

Virtual Interview day for the fall of 2021 will be Friday, February 5, 2021.

Health Psychology

Health psychology is a rapidly emerging field of basic and applied research into the interactions between behavior and physical health.

In broad terms, health psychology seeks to understand the role behavior plays in the etiology, treatment and prevention of disease. There is also an interest in how variation in physical health, including disease, affects behavior. Behavior in this context is broadly construed to encompass environmental, psychosocial and sociocultural factors, as well as individual behavioral attributes (e.g., personality).

At UC Merced, we seek to develop excellence in research and education in health psychology. Health psychology has been identified as one of the main areas of emphasis within psychology the other two areas currently are developmental psychology and quantitative psychology.

Interest in health psychology at UC Merced was initiated at UC Merced in 2007 when Jan Wallander joined the faculty. We plan to keep growing by adding about one faculty member and two to four new students each year in the near future.

The specific research areas within health psychology at UC Merced continue to expand as our faculty grows, though current areas of focus include research with children, adolescents and adults. Given our location in the Central Valley of California, with its diverse population, and being tasked as a university to address challenges this region confronts, we also have a strong interest in cultural influences on health and health problems among ethnic minority populations.

Specific topics being examined by faculty include:

  • Quality of life in vulnerable health populations, such as those with a chronic disease (e.g., asthma, diabetes) or disability
  • Family coping with a child that has a chronic disease or disability
  • Behavioral interventions (e.g. written self-disclosure) in chronic disease care
  • Prevention of disease and disability in vulnerable populations (e.g., infants with birth asphyxia)
  • Health and development in developing countries (e.g., Zambia, India)
  • Development of problem behaviors (e.g., depression, violence) and health risk behaviors (e.g., substance use, poor nutrition) in adolescence
  • Decision making regarding risk behaviors (e.g., tobacco use, gambling) in adolescents and young adults
  • Cultural influences on health-related and risk behaviors and health among members of ethnic minority groups (e.g., Hispanics, Asian Americans, African Americans)
  • The impact of coping processes (e.g., approach and avoidance) on psychological adjustment to illness and health-related adversity.
  • Psychosocial and biological processes in acute and chronic stress.


Below is a list of some specialized courses in health psychology offered to graduate students in Psychological Sciences. Additional courses in quantitative methods and developmental psychology might be recommended based on the student's research interests.

Many health psychologists work in clinical settings, assisting individuals or groups in preventing illness and adopting positive lifestyle choices to promote overall good health among their patients. Others may choose to perform research, become health psychology professors or work with lobbyists or community health organizations to influence public policy on healthcare issues. Whatever the professional setting, you need the following skills to land a career in health psychology:

Skills and Competencies

Complex Decision Making and Sound Judgement

Critical Thinking

Risk Management Assessment of Biological and Behavioral Factors

Deductive and Inductive Reasoning

Understanding of Pathophysiology of Disease and Potential Treatments

Understanding of Public Health Issues in a Bio-Social-Psychological Context


Data Analysis

Whether treating patients directly in clinical practice or helping to reshape healthcare laws, health psychologists aim to develop and implement effective methods of promoting health and wellness among individuals and the public. Hiring organizations require professionals operating in the domain of health psychology to have extensive knowledge of the psychological, biological and social implications of health, behavior, illness and disease.

Below are four primary specializations within health psychology which describe the general responsibilities of the profession.

Areas of Expertise in the Health Psychology Field

Helping patients in a medical facility or other clinical setting to radically improve their lifestyle through techniques designed to identify cognitive behaviors, explore and understand more healthful choices and inspire healthy change.

Issues Treated

  • Smoking
  • Obesity or unhealthy weight gain
  • Stress
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Physical disability

Professionals in this area may also specialize in treating patients who are adjusting to the onset of, response to or in recovery from an injury or illness. Depending on the level of severity, effective techniques may include exercise tips, cognitive therapy and hypnosis.

Common Job Titles

  • Clinical Health Psychologist
  • Clinical Health Counselor
  • Clinical Health Therapist

Occupational health psychologists specialize in treating mental and physical issues, specifically work-related stress, brought on by individual occupational conditions.

Issues Addressed

  • Chronic stress at work
  • Conflict with superiors or coworkers
  • Social anxiety surrounding their job

These professionals help to develop a psychotherapy-based treatment plan customized for each individual. Depending on the specific diagnosis of each patient, occupational health psychologists may focus on work-specific communication and interaction techniques to help improve health and reduce stress.

Common Job Titles

  • Occupational Health Psychologist
  • Occupational Health Specialist
  • Occupational Stress Management Specialist

Health psychologists specializing in public health typically work within universities or other academic settings to research the connection between psychological and physical well-being. They also explore effective methods of mental health care and pain management.

Common Research Topics

  • Violence prevention programming
  • Disease control
  • Mental health of correctional facility inmates

It is common for this subspecialty of health psychologists to develop and participate in research programs designed to advance public health and inspire innovations in the field. Findings are often published in scholarly journals or industry publications.

Common Job Titles

Professionals in this subspecialty could be called “the face” of health psychology they’re responsible for promoting health care initiatives through community programs and public awareness.

Typical Duties

  • Conduct community health care surveys
  • Contact government officials on behalf of the community
  • Organize public/community health care programs
  • Distribute information/raise awareness in community

Community health psychologists may also work with lobbyists, local government or other elected officials to shape and reform health psychology via a government agency or private organization.

Common Job Titles

  • Community Health Psychologist
  • Community Health Specialist
  • Community Health Programs Specialist

Health Psychology by the Numbers

Health psychologists in the U.S. are a rapidly-expanding group, expected to increase in population by 11% nationwide from 2012 to 2022. As a specialty under larger categories of psychology, health psychologists are among the broad population of clinical, counseling and school psychologists who will occupy an estimated 16,000 new jobs by the year 2022.

Annual Mean Wage of Health Psychologists by State, May 2014

StateEmploymentEmployment per Thousand JobsLocation QuotientHourly Mean WageAnnual Mean Wage
Rhode Island5801.251.61$45.47$94,590
New Jersey3,6900.951.23$41.19$85,670

Source: Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, July 2015

The Wiley Encyclopedia of Health Psychology

Organized thematically as an A to Z reference encyclopedia across 4 volumes, this comprehensive resource on health psychology provides a concise overview of the ever-expanding interdisciplinary field.

The first volume of The Wiley Encyclopedia of Health Psychology covers the biological bases of health behavior, providing information on topics in the broad areas of neuroscience and biopsychology relevant to health behavior. Volume II addresses topics related to theories and data derived from social psychology including health or prevention related behaviors, stress and coping, and the design and evaluation of behavioral interventions. The third volume examines the applied aspects of the field of health psychology including practical topics that clinical health psychologists face in the workplace, issues related to unhealthy behaviors that individuals engage in, behavioral aspects of medical problems, and issues related to the comorbidity of psychiatric disorders and chronic health problems. Volume IV examines special issues in health psychology covering various historical, philosophical, and conceptual issues. It also considers issues related to diversity and underrepresented/underserved groups.

As a whole, this 4-volume set:

  • Delves into topics related to Health Psychology across the subfields of Biopsychology, Social Psychology, Clinical Psychology
  • Appeals to the broader field of Behavioral Medicine, including medical and allied health fields
  • Examines the interconnections between biology, psychology, and socio-environmental factors

The Wiley Encyclopedia of Health Psychology is an ideal resource for college and university libraries as well as for professional psychologists and other health care professionals interested in the relationship of psychological and physical well being.

Author Bios

Lee M. Cohen, PhD, has served as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Mississippi since 2015. Prior to that, he spent 15 years at Texas Tech University where he directed the nationally accredited doctoral program in clinical psychology and chaired the Department of Psychological Sciences. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Society of Behavioral Medicine, has over 40 peer-reviewed publications to his credit, as well as two edited books, and he has received more than $1.5 Million in funding from various agencies in support of his research. Dr. Cohen has also received several university-wide awards for his teaching and academic achievement.

Health Psychology Promotes Wellness

For years, we’ve known about the dangers of smoking, and that we should eat less and move more. But in the end, what motivates us to put down the doughnut and hit the running trail or carefully follow a doctor’s instructions about medications and follow-up visits?

Health psychology explores those motivations in the pursuit of getting people to embrace health promotion and illness prevention. This specialty area examines how biological, social and psychological factors influence the choices we make about our health.

Health psychologists study the factors that allow people to be healthy, recover from an illness or cope with a chronic condition. They are experts in the intersection of health and behavior and are in demand as a part of integrated health care delivery teams — working with other doctors to provide whole-person health care.

Consulting Editors

Kristen G. Anderson, PhD
Reed College, United States

Kristin J. August, PhD
Rutgers University, Camden, United States

Simon L. Bacon, PhD
Concordia University, Canada

Cynthia A. Berg, PhD
University of Utah, United States

James A. Blumenthal, PhD
Duke University Medical Center, United States

Beth C. Bock, PhD
Alpert Medical School at Brown University, United States

Belinda Borrelli, PhD
Boston University, United States

Jos A. Bosch, PhD
University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Julienne E. Bower, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles, United States

Linda D. Cameron, PhD
University of California, Merced, United States

Linda E. Carlson, PhD
University of Calgary School of Medicine and Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Robert M. Carney, PhD
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, United States

Laurie Chassin, PhD
Arizona State University, United States

Edith Chen, PhD
Northwestern University, United States

Alan J. Christensen, PhD
East Carolina University, United States

Lisa M. Christian, PhD
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, United States

Mark Conner, PhD
University of Leeds, United Kingdom

Rosalie Corona, PhD
Virginia Commonwealth University, United States

Alan M. Delamater, PhD
University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, United States

Rodney King Dishman, PhD
University of Georgia, United States

Frank Doyle, PhD
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Ireland

Chris Dunkel Schetter, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles, United States

Nicole Ennis, PhD
Florida State University College of Medicine, United States

Shawna L. Ehlers, PhD, LP
Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, United States

Leonard H. Epstein, PhD
University at Buffalo, United States

Richard Fielding, PhD
The University of Hong Kong, China

Marian L. Fitzgibbon, PhD
University of Illinois at Chicago, United States

Stephanie L. Fitzpatrick, PhD
Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, United States

Meg Gerrard, PhD
University of Connecticut, United States

Peter J. Gianaros, PhD
University of Pittsburgh, United States

Frederick X. Gibbons, PhD
University of Connecticut, United States

Susan S. Girdler, PhD
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States

Jeffrey Silvestre Gonzalez, PhD
Yeshiva University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, United States

Joseph A. Greer, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital & Harvard Medical School, United States

Brooks B. Gump, PhD, MPH
Syracuse University, United States

Peter A. Hall, PhD
University of Waterloo, Canada

Martica H. Hall, PhD
University of Pittsburgh, United States

Michael A. Harris, PhD
Oregon Health & Science University, United States

Vicki Sue Helgeson, PhD
Carnegie Mellon University, United States

Michael Hoerger, PhD, MSCR
Tulane Cancer Center, United States

David M. Huebner, PhD
George Washington University, United States

Paul Jacobsen, PhD
National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, United States

Robert D. Kerns, PhD
Yale University, United States

Michaela Kiernan, PhD
Stanford University School of Medicine, United States

David S. Krantz, PhD
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, United States

Hope Landrine, PhD
East Carolina University–Brody School of Medicine, United States

Kevin T. Larkin, PhD, ABPP
West Virginia University, United States

Tricia M. Leahey, PhD
University of Connecticut, United States

Tené T. Lewis, PhD
Emory University, United States

Qian Lu, PhD
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, United States

Mark A. Lumley, PhD
Wayne State University, United States

Patrick J. Lustman, PhD
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and St. Louis VA Medical Center, United States

Susan K. Lutgendorf, PhD
University of Iowa, United States

University of Illinois at Chicago, United States

Evan Mayo-Wilson, DPhil
Indiana University School of Public Health – Bloomington, United States

Kevin D. McCaul, PhD
North Dakota State University, United States

Lance McCracken, PhD
Uppsala University, Sweden

Susan Michie, DPhil
University College London, United Kingdom

Paul J. Mills, PhD
University of California, San Diego, United States

Sylvie Naar, PhD
Florida State University College of Medicine, United States

Justin M. Nash, PhD
University of Connecticut, United States

Sherry Pagoto, PhD
University of Connecticut, United States

George Dennis Papandonatos, PhD
Brown University, United States

Patricia A. Parmelee, PhD
University of Alabama, United States

Kenneth Perkins, PhD
University of Pittsburgh, United States

Michael L. Perlis, PhD
University of Pennsylvania, United States

Keith J. Petrie, PhD, FRSNZ
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Judith J. Prochaska, PhD, MPH
Stanford University, United States

Tracey A. Revenson, PhD
Hunter College & Graduate Center, City University of New York, United States

DeJuran Richardson, PhD
Lake Forest College and Rush University Medical Center, United States

Alexander J. Rothman, PhD
University of Minnesota, United States

John M. Ruiz, PhD
University of Arizona, United States

Thomas Rutledge, PhD
University of California, San Diego, United States

Steven A. Safren, PhD, ABPP
University of Miami, United States

Jeffrey F. Scherrer, PhD
Saint Louis University School of Medicine, United States

Mario Schootman, PhD
SSM Health, United States

Samuel F. Sears, PhD
East Carolina University, United States

Suzanne C. Segerstrom, PhD, MPH
University of Kentucky, United States

William G. Shadel, PhD
RAND Corporation, United States

Paschal Sheeran, PhD
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States

Judith A. Skala, PhD
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, United States

George M. Slavich, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles, United States

Kevin D. Stein, PhD, FAPOS
Cancer Support Community, United States

Jesse C. Stewart, PhD
Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, United States

Kenneth Tercyak, PhD
Georgetown University, United States

Rebecca C. Thurston, PhD
University of Pittsburgh, United States

Lara N. Traeger, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, United States

Bert N. Uchino, PhD
University of Utah, United States

John A. Updegraff, PhD
Kent State University, United States

Corrine I. Voils, PhD
William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital & University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, United States

Elissa R. Weitzman, ScD, MSc
Harvard Medical School/Boston Children's Hospital, United States

Denise Wilfley, PhD
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, United States

Dawn K. Wilson, PhD
University of South Carolina, United States

Richard A. Winett, PhD
Virginia Tech, United States

Betina Yanez, PhD
Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, United States

Tamika C. B. Zapolski, PhD
Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, United States


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