What is Health Psychology?

My interest in the mind-body connection played an important role in pursuit of a career in clinical psychology. My first job after earning my undergraduate degree was at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where I worked as a research assistant on a study investigating the long-term effects of retinoblastoma (a pediatric cancer of the eye) on quality of life.

Woman stretching while looking at computer
Since then, I have spent much of my career investigating the effects of our mental states on our bodies, as well as the impact of illness/disease on our psychological well-being. The link between the mind and body is strong and intricate, and increasing our awareness of these connections can ultimately be extremely empowering. This is why I am dedicated to raising awareness of this specialty, as it can benefit people who are coping with a wide variety of stressors and diagnoses.

What is Health Psychology?

Health psychology is the study of human thought, feeling, and behavior as it relates to our physical health and well-being. We know that our psychological state can greatly influence our physical health, through many different avenues.

For example, prolonged stress and anxiety can trigger sustained physiological changes in our bodies that can lead to chronic health concerns, including, but not limited to high blood pressure, immune compromise, and weight gain.

Moreover, the diagnosis and treatment process for many conditions can be a long, scary, and grueling process for many people.

Clinical health psychologists are specialized therapists who are trained to provide psychological services to clients with a wide range of concerns, including those who are chronically or terminally ill, or in need of support in making significant changes in their health-related behaviors (e.g. diet, exercise, stress management, etc.).

Health psychologists have a deep understanding of the complex relation between our psychological health and our physiological/physical well-being. 

How Can It Help Me?

Mind Body Effects of Stress Coronado PsychMany clients are referred to health psychology by their physicians, to help support patients who are struggling with a wide variety of diagnoses (e.g. hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, chronic pain, etc.).

Health psychologists can help clients find ways to improve health-related behaviors (e.g. improve diet/exercise, increase adherence to medication guidelines, etc.), manage thoughts and feelings that can worsen physical symptoms (e.g. pain), and help clients integrate their new “patient” status into their overall sense of self.

Health psychologists can also help people cope with health-related anxiety (e.g. stress related to exposure to COVID-19, or other communicable diseases); and caregivers may also benefit from this type of support.

Additionally, psychotherapists who are trained in health psychology can help patients and their caregivers better navigate complex health care systems, improve communication with their medical providers, and gain a better understanding of their health condition. 

How do I get help?

Therapist Office Coronado PsychIf you are interested in health psychology, it may be helpful to contact your physician for a recommendation, especially if you are seeking psychotherapy with regard to a specific diagnosis. You can also find health psychologists in your community by searching for therapists who indicate their specific training in their online profiles or informational materials. 

If you are interested in Health Psychology services at Coronado Psych, please feel free to contact us at 619-354-4027, info@coronadopsych.com, or click here for an initial consultation.

For more information please visit the links below:

Stress effects on the body: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress/effects-cardiovascular#menu

CBT for Pain : https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d9a5/34512486a20bcbc8d472b9c6bfc342a53ce7.pdf

CBT for Health-related anxiety: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0005796714000631

Health-related anxiety: http://www.abct.org/Information/?m=mInformation&fa=fs_HEALTH_ANXIETY

CBT for Caregivers: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5653628/

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