Health psychology is a branch of psychology that seeks to address the mental, emotional, and social factors that might negatively impact on an individual’s physical well-being. This field also focuses on a patient’s mental and emotional reaction to illness, such as coping with a chronic illness, trauma, injury or disability. Thus, it focuses on how our individual psychological and social factors affect our physical health and how our physical health affects our psychological health.
From an integrative medicine perspective, a Health Psychologist is well placed to work beside medical Doctors and Nurse Practitioners, as their orientation is in the promotion of positive health behaviours such as healthy eating and exercise practices and in the reduction of behaviours that contribute to chronic illness such as excessive alcohol use, smoking, drug use and poor dietary practices. For example, within our integrative health model at River Tree Health, our Doctor may refer his patient to our Health Psychologist for individualised assessment of their dietary, lifestyle and stress management behaviours with view to helping the patient make the link between their unhealthy eating practices and drinking behaviour on their auto-immune condition, or even the impact of their dietary habits on their diagnosis of depression.
Health psychologists often work with other allied and medical professionals and advise on an individual’s underlying attitudes and beliefs that may be driving their unhealthy behaviours. Once these have been identified, they work with the client to modify these behaviours to improve their general health and wellbeing.
So how can they help me then?
If you have issues with chronic pain, addiction, poor sleep, eating problems, anxiety or depression, a Health Psychologist can apply psychological interventions which can help you cope better.
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.
If you would like to have an introductory 5-minute informal chat with our in-house Health Psychologist about how she may help you, please contact Pia Jones at River Tree Health (07) 3036 2744