Health Psychologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Health psychologists concentrate on the diagnosis and treatment of an illness affecting the mental and bodily conditions of a patient. Interventions and repeated therapy are a common form of treatment. A career in health psychology requires a doctoral degree.
Health Psychologist Job Description
Health psychologists explore the factors, including biological, psychological and social, that shape an individual's positive or negative well-being. Health psychologists study the various reactions of individuals when diagnosed with a particular disease, as well as factors that affect their treatment choices. They assist patients through chronic disease care, such as diabetes or substance abuse, and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Health psychologists perform assessments and conduct interviews, as well as develop and implement specialized patient care programs in pain management, oncology and women's health.
Health Psychologist Job Duties
To assess a patient or group of patients, a health psychologist conducts surveys, personality tests, interviews and interventions. An intervention can pertain to chronic disease management, relaxation therapy or stress relief, with a goal of improving coping mechanisms and increasing social support. A health psychologist is most likely to complete both clinical and research activity. Research within health psychology specializes in illness development and prevention, pain reduction and recovery factors.
Health Psychologist Job Requirements
To practice as an independent psychologist in the U.S., a 5-year doctoral degree is necessary in clinical or counseling psychology. During this period, a standard 1-year internship or residency specializing in health psychology training must be completed. Doctoral and internship coursework must be completed from an American Psychological Association accredited program. Postdoctoral work may also be required and is available through medical centers, health programs and universities.
In addition to a graduate degree, health psychologists must meet licensure or certification requirements within their state (www.bls.gov). Licensing requirements vary by state, but typically include a graduate degree and passing an exam. Health psychologists must complete continuing education units, in state-specific durations, to renew or keep their license.
Health Psychologist Job Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts psychologists, overall, will see a 22% rise in employment opportunities between 2010 and 2020. Psychologists employed in physicians' offices earned an average salary of $84,890 in 2012, according to the BLS; meanwhile, professionals in this field who worked in hospitals averaged $92,910 that year.
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