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Health Psychology

A subfield of psychology devoted to health maintenance, including research on the relationship between mental and physical health, guidance in improving individual health through lifestyle changes, and analysis and improvement of the health care system.

Health psychology is a diverse area with a variety of emphases. Medical psychology focuses on the clinical treatment of patients with physical illnesses, offering practical advice people can use in order to improve their health. While there is special emphasis on psychosomatic disorders—those that have traditionally been most closely related to psychological factors—the current trend is toward a holistic perspective that considers all physical health inseparable from a patient's emotional state. As part of this trend, psychologists and pediatricians have joined forces in the growing area of pediatric psychology, collaborating to meet the health and developmental needs of children and their families. Another focal point is rehabilitation psychology, which teams mental health professionals with health care providers who care for patients with physical disabilities and chronic conditions, often in institutional settings.

Another province of health psychology is the study of "health behavior"—how people take care of or neglect their health, either in a preventative context or when they are ill. This area includes such concerns as drug abuse, utilization of health care resources, and adjustment to chronic illness. Health psychology also addresses the health care system itself, including analysis of the outreach, diagnostic, and prescription processes, provider-patient interaction, and the training of health care personnel.

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Psychology EncyclopediaBranches of Psychology