Health psychology is a field that focuses on the connection between mind and body. Psychologists in this field help people understand this connection and adopt habits that help strengthen it and lead to better overall physical and mental health.
The demand for psychologists in all areas is increasing as more organizational leaders now understand how a person’s cognitive and emotional states affect all aspects of life.
The federal government projects a 14% leap in the number of jobs for psychologists by 2026, including those in health psychology.
Earning a master’s degree in psychology with a concentration in health psychology prepares graduates to take on the top jobs in this challenging, rewarding field.
What Is Health Psychology?
In broad terms, health psychology delves into the ways that mental health, behavioral and sociological factors can influence a person’s physical wellbeing. Health psychologists also study the opposite – how physical health and illness impact mental health and behavior.
For an anecdotal example, consider how a person with a sedentary lifestyle will explain why they don’t exercise regularly. The answer is likely to involve time constraints or various versions of “I don’t feel like it” – but rarely a concrete, physical reason.
Why wouldn’t a person exercise regularly when they know they will feel better and live longer? Or, in another example, why would people continue smoking when they know it’s bad for them? The answer is most often not in the body, but the mind.
Health psychologists work in this area. In general, no matter what exact career path they follow, they work with patients to help them better understand and put into action the best practices for a healthy mind and body, with respect and understanding of the connection between the two.
Careers in Health Psychology
Given the need for health psychology in so many areas, the career options for those with a master’s degree are multiple. They include the following.
Health psychologists in this area focus on the theories and best practices for health at the community-wide level. They work to help people live lifestyles that promote both physical and mental health, as well as prevent diseases by avoiding the behavior that is known to cause them.
Health psychologists may work in a private setting or within a community center, working individually with patients. They support their patients in developing better health practices and help them avoid behaviors that lead to bad habits.
Some larger companies may employ health psychologists to work with groups or individuals on health-related issues specific to their occupation.
Schools may employee health psychologists to work with students who face specific types of health-related issues at various ages as they advance through their school years.
Non-profit organizations often employ health psychologists, typically to work with larger groups. These groups often are in underserved communities.
Health psychologists may get hired as consultants in any of the areas listed above, rather than working directly for an organization. Typically, successful consultants specialize in one or two of these areas.
Health psychology is a fascinating field, and one that is gaining in importance. For those interested in working in one of the most vital areas of the profession, a master’s degree in this area is well worth considering.