Considering all psychologists are trained to work from a biopsychosocial perspective - that is, to consider the biological, psychological and social aspects of a presenting problem or issue - most clinical work will include some aspect of a person's physical health as well as their mental health.
As a dual clinical and health psychologist, I've been very lucky to be employed in a variety of settings including at a children's cancer hospital and currently, within a rehabilitation department in a hospital.
Within those roles, I've worked with patients with:
• chronic pain
• cardiovascular disease
• multiple sclerosis
• Post surgery
• Post trauma/accident
And that's just to name a few!
There are multiple aspects to all of those, including:
• coping with diagnosis
• adjustment to the illness and the limitations or changes it brings
• grief and loss
• lifestyle changes
• behaviour changes
• cognitive/thinking changes
• memory training
• return to work/functioning
• Transitions including end of treatment
• Family support
And that's just to name a few!
Lifestyle behaviour changes necessary for prevention or cure or simply due to pure desire for an improvement in quality of life present a unique set of issues revolving around a person's readiness to change a problematic behaviour.
For example, someone may need to alter their diet/smoking/drinking/exercise habits because of poor health, but sometimes it's just not that simple.
In order to answer your questions and help you with your health issues, we'd love to hear from you!
Are you currently contemplating a major lifestyle change?
Has your doctor told you to change something about the way you're currently living your life?
Have you received a diagnosis that has changed your life?
Are you trying a new diet or exercise regime?
If you are, or if you'd like to discuss anything related to health and quality of life, then don't be shy - message or email us (it makes us feel useful!).
I'm happy to say we've already got a personal account from a reader about their experience with obesity and gastric bypass surgery.
I'm currently trying to break my sugar addiction, so you'll be reading about that (sorry!).
In the meantime, if you'd like to read more about health psychology, read on below. You can expect our articles to begin popping up on Facebook from July 1.
The following information regarding health psychology is directly from the Australian Psychological Society.
Specific areas of practice
• This field aims to promote positive health behaviours and reduce harmful health behaviours such as poor dietary habits, smoking, alcohol and other drug abuse, and physical inactivity. It aims to reduce risk factors associated with chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and injuries.
• Health psychologists work with other health professionals and advise on attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that contribute to ill health, and how they might be changed (e.g., programs to assist people who overeat or eat a high fat diet).
• Health psychologists design public health programs in areas such as behaviour change related to exercise, alcohol, cigarettes, drug consumption, and injury and cancer prevention (e.g., ‘SunSmart’, ‘Life. Be in it’).
• Health psychologists work with community members and professionals to improve health and wellbeing by estimating the distribution of disease, identifying health behaviour and modifiable determinants.
Clinical health psychology
• Health psychologists have expertise in developing education and behaviour change programs to help people to recover from or self-manage chronic illness, trauma, injury or disability.
• Psychological treatments also reduce problems that can accompany and contribute to illness and injury, such as chronic pain, addiction, poor sleep, eating problems, anxiety, depression and emotional reactions such as anger and grief.
• Health psychologists help people to cope with the diagnosis and medical treatment of acute health problems and to facilitate medical care.
• Health psychologists assist people to cope with terminal illness, including the impact of loss, bereavement, death and dying.
• Health psychologists design and test interventions to improve health systems and relationships between health professionals, doctors, nurses and psychologists, and monitor impacts on health determinants that encourage recovery from illness and injury.
Skills of health psychologists
Health psychologists have knowledge and skills in the following areas:
• Developing and evaluating interventions that can enhance health and wellbeing, including treatments that can help people to cope with illness or associated problems (e.g., facilitating friends and family to help with recovery)
• Understanding how psychological and behavioural factors interact with the physical systems of the body and social factors to influence health and illness
• Quantifying the extent and type of health problems experienced by various groups in Australia
• Understanding the way that people behave or the underlying attitudes that put their health at risk and how they might change these behaviours to prevent illness and promote health
• Identifying and treating the psychological impact of illness.
We hope you'll look forward to our future health related articles as much as we are looking forward to writing them. Stay healthy and be kind to one another.