The Contributions of Psychology in the Health Psychology



Psychology is a major field which has over the years been incorporated in the education systems of most countries due to its influence on students. Institutions of higher learning globally identify psychology as a major field of study where it has been included in the undergraduate programs to enable learners to create a career path after its study. Psychology is identified as a science associated with studying the human mind and how it influences the different behaviors experienced in society (Norcross, Hailstorks, Aiken, Pfund, Stamm and Christidis 2016). Therefore, learners in this field strive to become psychologists where their role in society is to explore and study mental and behavior processes such as attention, brain functioning, cognition, intelligence, perception, and personality. Psychology is crucial since it is related with other fields of study; hence, contributing critical information which enables individuals to comprehend human behaviors in the fields. Some of the fields, in this case, include sport and exercise, clinical, and health psychology. Therefore, this paper will critically evaluate the contributions of psychology in the health psychology field and identify how the different perspectives are applied in the understanding of the health sector.

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Health Psychology

Health Psychology is a field of study based on analyzing the medical needs and treatments required by individuals in society. It is associated with the exploration of behavioral and psychological processes in the healthcare sector where issues such as illnesses and health are evaluated with the aim of promoting public health (Suls and Rothman 2004). Psychology enables health practitioners to understand the correlation between human behavior and the health status of their patients in the medical institutions. This is because the illnesses and diseases suffered by people will vary depending on how they behave and their mind perceptions regarding the diseases. Therefore, health psychology enables people to comprehend how behavioral, psychological and cultural factors influence illness and the physical health of people in society. Behavioral factors, in this case, are the activities conducted by individuals where some of the actions may directly affect their health. For instance, behaviors such as the excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking may negatively affect people’s health due to the illnesses associated with the actions. Some behaviors, on the other hand, may enhance the health status of an individual such as regular exercises and physical activities. Psychological factors are also crucial in understanding public health where they may directly affect the health status of individuals in society. For instance, the emergence of environmental and social stresses such as deaths may lead to people experiencing trauma and fatigue; hence, the emergence of illnesses such as brain damage and cardiovascular diseases (Schwarzer and Renner 2000). This indicates how psychology plays a major role in the health sector since medical practitioners can comprehend the correlation between behavioral and psychological factors and the health and illnesses experienced in society. According to most health psychologists, a biopsychosocial approach must be adopted in the healthcare sector; that is, the health practitioners should not only consider biological processes such as virus and bacteria in understanding health. Psychological, social and behavioral processes such as habits, ethnicity, beliefs, and thoughts affect health; hence, they should also be considered by health psychologists when analyzing public health issues. Therefore, since psychological factors affect health, psychologists in the medical field are required to efficiently identify and understand the factors to enable them to improve the health sector in society. 

Perspectives in Health Psychology

Psychology is associated with the study and explanation of human behavior and how the behavior is influenced by the brain. Some perspectives have over the years been used in the field to explain the activities and operations that influence human behavior. The psychological perspectives include cognition, evolution, and behaviorism (Ng and Jeffery 2003). These perspectives are applicable in health psychology; hence, indicating the contribution of psychology in the field. The cognitive perspective is based on the brain and mental process of an individual and how the process influences his or her behavior in society. The perspective can be used in health psychology to indicate how people are influenced by the brain to engage in specific habits that may affect their health. For instance, drinking alcohol is a continuous habit practiced by people where it is generated by the mental process. This habit may negatively affect the health of people since alcohol is associated with diseases such as liver cirrhosis. The evolutionary perspective is also crucial in explaining health psychology where growth and development is a continuous process. This means that some illnesses experienced by individuals are due to the evolution process, and changes in behavior are experienced due to the development of the brain. 

The Role of Health Psychologists

Health Psychologists, in this case, are individuals who apply the knowledge obtained from the study of psychology to enhance the healthcare sector in society. The psychologists focus on both the behavioral and psychological factors influencing public health; hence, enabling them to operate efficiently in the medical discipline. The health psychologists in medical institutions study the minds and behaviors of the patients to generate a thesis regarding their health and illnesses. This is through working directly with patients in the health institutions and understanding some of their social aspects such as ethnic background, beliefs, thoughts, and daily habits. Through this social interaction, the health psychologist can obtain crucial information regarding the patients where he or she can utilize the information to generate a health solution for the patients (Cohen 2004). For instance, if a psychologist interacts with an obese patient, he or she may interview the patient to comprehend some of his or her eating behaviors and culture to identify the cause of the patient’s health disorder. From the analysis of the behaviors and culture, the health psychologist may then recommend the patient on what to eat to avoid the health problem or advise him or her to engage in physical activities to avoid the overweight issue. The psychologists may also indirectly interact with patients in medical institutions through the creation and implementation of public health programs such as rehabilitation centers to comprehend the behavioral and psychological factors being experienced by individuals. For instance, individuals associated with the excessive consumption of alcohol and drug abuse are managed and closely monitored by health psychologists in rehabilitation centers. The psychologists, in this case, can analyze the habits and beliefs of the individuals to enable them to generate solutions on how to prevent them from engaging in the behaviors negatively affecting their health status. Health psychologists are important in society since they can use the knowledge derived from the study of psychology to train and help other individuals operating in the healthcare professionals such as nurses and physicians (Carmody and Baer 2008). This is important since most of the people in the healthcare professionals are only trained to focus on biological factors regarding health and illnesses; hence, training from health psychologists would enable them to appreciate other factors influencing health such as psychological, behavioral, and social issues. The study of psychology is beneficial to health psychologists since the information obtained from the study ensures they can operate in a wide variety of settings where their career path is enhanced. For instance, the psychologists, in this case, can operate in medical institutions such as clinics, hospitals, and public health departments. They are also involved in managing and regulating the activities conducted in institutions such as rehabilitation centers and retirement homes. Health psychologists can operate in institutions of higher learning such as universities, colleges, and medical schools where they may provide different services depending on their positions. Some of the psychologists are involved in conducting intensive and extensive research for the institutions of higher learning; hence, generating revenues from the research. On the other hand, other health psychologists are involved in lecturing and training students in the medical field to enable them to obtain biopsychosocial skills when they qualify to operate as health professionals. 

Fields within Health Psychology

Psychology has over the years made significant contributions to the health psychology department which has led to the emergence of different fields and divisions within the discipline. The divisions, in this case, are four where they include community health psychology, public health psychology, critical health psychology, and clinical health psychology (Van Zomeren, Postmes and Spears 2008). The divisions indicate the growth of the health psychology discipline which can be attributed to the study of psychology in the institutions of higher learning. The recent advances in psychological and medical research have led health psychologists into the generation of new ideas and theories that have facilitated these divisions.

Clinical Health Psychology

This division is a branch of health psychology where it focuses on scientific knowledge to understand the correlation between behavioral factors and public health. Clinical psychologists in the medical department are based on analyzing how the brain influences individuals to engage in a particular behavior, and how the behavior may negatively affect the health of the people. Therefore, this health psychology department is associated with intensive and extensive research and observation since the psychologists aim at studying and comprehending how the brain of the health patients functions and how it connects with their social behaviors in society. Scientific concepts and explanations are utilized by the clinical psychologists to elaborate how the behaviors influence the emergence of illnesses in society. In this case, the psychologists are not considered to be medical psychologists since their operations are scientific; hence, they fail to interact with patients directly. However, in some countries, the clinical psychologists are offered additional training to enable them to acquire skills in the medical department where they achieve prescriptive privileges. 

Public Health Psychology

The public health psychology division is based on the maintenance of healthy individuals at the population level. This means the psychologists at this level apply their knowledge regarding behavioral and psychosocial factors that influence public health to identify the illnesses associated with the factors and generate solutions with the aim of promoting a healthy population. Therefore, the psychologists, in this case, work closely with social institutions and firms that can reach out to many people in society to facilitate their operations of providing health services to the people. The public health psychologists are involved in conducting research associated with the behavioral, psychological, and social factors influencing public health where they forward the results to individuals such as policy-makers, educators, and healthcare providers; hence, improving the public health of society. Therefore, this division of health psychology operates at the population level, and psychological data used in promoting the health of people.

Community Health Psychology

Community health psychology is also a crucial part of health psychology since it focuses on promoting public health at the community level. The illnesses affecting people, in this case, are believed to emerge from community factors. The health psychologists at this level are involved in researching the community factors affecting people where solutions to prevent the illnesses are generated at the community level. The interventions generated by the psychologists are designed to promote both mental and physical health of the community members by combating diseases and illnesses affecting the community. Therefore, the psychological health analysis conducted by psychologists, in this case, is done at the community-level.

Critical Health Psychology

Lastly, critical health psychology is a branch of health psychology regarding the promotion of social equality in society to ensure the health of people is improved regardless of their gender, age, color, race or social background. This division focuses on the distribution of power in society and how the power impacts the healthcare systems and policies. The psychologists, in this case, are involved in advocating for social justice regarding health by striving to ensure that all individuals in society receive quality medication regardless of their backgrounds. Critical psychologists work closely with the governments to ensure the formulation and implementation of effective health policies that cater to the needs of all people in the region (Wang, Wu and Liu 2003). The psychologists ensure the healthcare systems are well-designed where they can enable the health practitioners to research and identify societal factors contributing to the emergence of illnesses and diseases. The healthcare systems, in this case, are crucial since they recognize the knowledge possessed by the psychologists regarding health psychology; hence, providing them with prescriptive privileges of catering to societal health needs and demands. Therefore, critical health psychology is an essential branch of health psychology in ensuring the detection and prevention of both psychological and behavioral factors that enhance the emergence of illnesses in a region.

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Therefore, from this study, one can identify how the study of psychology has over the years contributed to the development of the health psychology field. Psychology is associated with the study of the brain and mental process of individuals and how the process influences their behavior in society. Health psychology, on the other hand, involves the study of how the different human behaviors influence their health status. Health psychologists are involved in considering psychological, behavioral, and social factors when analyzing the health status of people which is different compared to health professionals who only consider biological factors. The mental factors include thoughts and beliefs while social and behavioral factors are the habits and background of individuals. These factors influence the health status of individuals since engaging in some behaviors may lead to them being exposed to some health complications. For instance, excessive drinking and drug abuse may lead to psychological stresses where the patients are attended to by health psychologists who analyze their behaviors and generate solutions for their treatment. This indicates how psychology has contributed to the development of the healthcare sector in society.

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