Public Description of Clinical Health Psychology

Clinical Health Psychology applies scientific knowledge of the interrelationships among behavioral, emotional, cognitive, social and biological components in health and disease to:

  • the promotion and maintenance of health;
  • the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of illness and disability; and
  • the improvement of the health care system.

The distinct focus of Clinical Health Psychology (also known as behavioral medicine, medical psychology and psychosomatic medicine) is at the juncture of physical and emotional illness, understanding and treating the overlapping challenges.

Specialized Knowledge

Clinical Health Psychology has evolved as a specialty area of knowledge and practice with foundations in the health sciences. Clinical Health Psychology requires a broad understanding of biology, pharmacology, anatomy, human physiology, pathophysiology and psychoneuroimmunology.

Problems Addressed

Clinical Health psychologists have knowledge of how learning, memory, perception, cognition and motivation:

  • influence health behaviors (e.g., weight, smoking, adherence to health care recommendations);
  • impact physical illness/injury/disability (e.g., onset of, response to, and recovery from illness or injury).

Skills and Procedures Utilized

Clinical health psychologists use a broad array of procedures including assessment, diagnosis consultation with the health care team including family, and various psychotherapeutic approaches and techniques in the context of physical illness and health promotion. With expertise in research conceptualization and methods, clinical health psychologists may also conduct research.

Population Served

Clinical Health Psychology has already impacted an array of major chronic diseases including, for example, AIDS, cancer, heart disease, chronic pain and diabetes. In addition, Clinical Health Psychologists evaluate and treat patients with acute health problems (e.g., surgery, transplant, painful procedures).