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Health Psychologists

Health psychologists promote the prevention and treatment of illness and may work within the health care system.

What is a health psychologist?
Health psychologists are engaged in:

  • the promotion and maintenance of health-related behaviour
  • diagnosis of illness and its causes
  • the prevention and treatment of illness
  • the analysis and improvement of the health care system.

Areas of expertise
Health psychologists have knowledge and skills in the following areas:

  • Biological, psychological and social determinants of health and illness
  • Epidemiology of Australian population groups
  • Basic physical systems
  • Models of health behaviours and behaviour change
  • Psychology of health risk factors
  • Health beliefs and attitudes
  • Systems approaches relevant to health
  • Stress management, coping and social support in health and illness.

Health psychologists are employed in two main areas of practice: illness prevention and health promotion. They also work in the clinical health area and apply psychology to illness assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation.

Health promotion health psychologists specialise in:

  • Behavioural epidemiology
  • Health promotion strategies and methods (e.g., applied to exercise, lifestyle and nutrition)
  • Public health marketing and communication
  • Disease prevention (e.g., coronary heart disease, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, smoking related diseases and dietary related problems)
  • Consumer behaviour
  • Systems and organisations for health promotion in Australia
  • Community needs analysis
  • Community development, intervention and empowerment strategies.

Clinical health psychologists specialise in:

  • Models of health care
  • Processes of acute and chronic illness, and seeking medical care
  • Developmental issues in acute and chronic illness
  • Communication in health settings
  • The patient-practitioner relationship
  • Psychosomatic, psychophysiological and behavioural medicine principles
  • Psychological treatment relevant to health and illness (e.g., pain, addiction, sleep and eating problems)
  • Adjustment (e.g., grief, bereavement, death and dying)
  • Trauma, disability and rehabilitation.

Heatlh psychologists are specialist psychologists with a minimum of six years’ full-time university training, comprising four years of undergraduate training in psychology and two years of approved postgraduate studies in health psychology, plus two further years of supervised practice as a health psychologist. To become a member of the APS College of Health Psychologists, practitioners are required to undertake a program of continuing professional development, in particular in relation to health psychology.

All psychologists are legally required to be registered with the Psychologist Registration Board in their State or Territory, in the same way that medical practitioners and solicitors are registered. Most States do not specifically register specialist titles such as health psychologist, or specifically regulate specialist areas of practice.

An important link related to your career can be this oneHome.Psychology Careers