Health Psychologist

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Health Psychologists are concerned with health promotion and illness prevention. Health psychologists assess and treat the psychological, biological and social factors that influence health and illness to promote positive changes and wellbeing. The two key areas of practice are in health promotion and clinical health psychology.

Clinical health psychologists deliver psychological treatments to reduce problems that may accompany and contribute to injury and illness. Health psychologists would work for example with people who suffer from chronic pain, sleep disorders, addictions, and mood disorders. Tasks may include:

  1. Develop education and behaviour change programs to aid recovery or self-management of chronic illness, injury, trauma or disability
  2. Deliver psychological interventions to assist people to cope with diagnosis and medical treatments of health problems and to aid medical care
  3. Deliver psychological interventions to help people cope with terminal illness, includes specialty work in loss, bereavement, death and dying
  4. Design and assess interventions to improve health systems and relationships between health professionals (eg doctors, nurses, psychologists) that encourage recovery from illness and injury

Health promotion is concerned with reducing risk factors associated with chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, obesity and injuries. Health psychologists use research evidence to promote positive health behaviours and reduce harmful behaviours such as smoking, drug abuse, poor dietary habits and physical inactivity. Tasks may include:

  1. Designing and assessing the impact of public health programs focused on behaviour change to promote health, eg injury prevention, cancer prevention, increased exercise, reducing drug consumption/dependency
  2. Providing advice to other health professionals on attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that impact on ill health and how they may be changed
  3. Research factors in the community such as the distribution of disease and the contributing health behaviours and modifiable determinants

Health psychologists work in multidisciplinary teams in a range of health settings; they may also work in private practice or in policy, health management or education roles. Qualifications required to enter into this field are the completion of a four year accredited psychology degree followed by a masters or doctorate program with a health psychology specialty. To practice as a psychologist in Australia, registration with the Australian Psychology Board is required.