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Health Psychology at City

City News speaks to Dr Angeliki Bogosian to find out more about City’s Health Psychology Doctorate training programme

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

Are you a student with a curiosity to learn about complex problems of health and healthcare and the ambition to conduct research that may lead to a solution to these problems? If you are, the Doctorate in Health Psychology programme at City, University of London is especially suited to students who want to find solutions to these issues and go on becoming health psychologists.

With the course recently moving over from the Department of Psychology to a more natural home in the School of Health Sciences, City News spoke to programme director Dr Angeliki Bogosian to find out more about the course.

CN: Could you tell me about the health psychology course at City?

AB: The Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology at City, University of London is the final stage in becoming an HCPC registered health psychologist. The doctorate is heavily based on professional practice. This means that health psychology trainees work in different settings and most competencies for their training are completed through their work.

Currently our trainees work in a variety of placements, including mental health charities, alcohol and drug misuse charities, charities related to chronic conditions; they work in public health, private health psychology companies, in NHS IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) services or NHS mental health services or other NHS services like pain management and oncology clinics.

The course provides trainees with the necessary support, training and supervision so that they can complete their competencies successfully and at a high quality. Further, since the DPsych Health Psychology course is embedded in the School of Health Sciences, trainees are getting a lot of opportunities to engage in training and research that is relevant to the health service and therefore closely related to Health Psychology practice.

CN: What makes it unique and what will students learn while they are here?

AB: The Dpsych Health Psychology has been an accredited programme at City since 2003. The programme was one of the first courses to train health psychologists in the country. City’s ‘strapline’ is ‘academic excellence for business and the professions’. Hence, training of professionals is core to the university’s vision and impact. At City, we have a large Health Psychology Group, consisting of 23 academic and research staff and PhD students; including three Professorial-level staff, who are Chartered Psychologists and HCPC-registered Health Psychologists and an additional six HCPC-registered academic and research staff. The group is strengthened and is strengthened by, a commitment to training health psychologists and researchers of the future.

We have a large and vibrant doctoral community, and our Health Psychology Trainees are part of this community. The trainees have access to numerous training opportunities. There is the core workshop series, with workshops directly linked to health psychology competencies. The trainees also have access to ethics and research workshops and drop-in sessions that are designed for all postgraduate students in the School of Health Sciences. Health psychology trainees can also attend the School of Health Sciences doctoral event workshops that consists of 2-hour workshops every six weeks during term time, providing training on a range of topics relevant to doctoral level study and presenting opportunities for inter-professional networking,

The health psychology group meets bi-weekly for peer-led discussions and health psychology and trainees are encouraged to attend the meetings. These meeting enable trainees to receive personal support, be guided in the role of peer mentoring and maintain their connection with their fellow trainees, the discipline and the profession. The peer-led discussions are guided to reflect on and synthesise the different aspects of their work, to develop a distinct professional identity as a Health Psychologist.

Our health psychology group also has long-standing strategic partnerships with NHS London, NHS Trusts and associated professional bodies that our trainees can take advantage of. For example, North East London NHS Foundation Trust, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust and Royal London Hospital welcome the opportunity to support Trainee Health Psychologists on voluntary placements in order to fulfil parts of their competencies. Health Psychology trainees also have opportunities to work within other services we are closely collaborating with by providing consultancies or teaching/training for them and by engaging with staff members’ research projects.

We are also committed to promoting user and carer involvement in research and education. We have a school-wide Public Engagement Facilitator who works towards enhancing and promoting user and carer involvement in health professional trainings delivered by the school. Involving users and carers is one of the HCPC priorities and providing our trainees with all the necessary skills to best incorporate patient and carer involvement in their work, we prepare them for the skills that future employers will look for.

The school of health sciences offers courses for many healthcare professions, which involves a range of placement arrangements. Therefore, we have an excellent infrastructure to not only support student placements but also to monitor them closely to ensure our trainees have all the necessary and appropriate opportunities in their work placements to complete their health psychology competencies and they are happy with the support they are getting from their placement.

CN: What kind of career paths are there for health psychologists once they have graduated?

AB: Health psychologists work in clinical settings, research or health care policymaking. For example, health psychologists are employed in settings, such as hospitals and community health settings, health research units, local authorities, public health departments and university departments. Consultancy companies may also employ health psychologists to provide expertise such as training, research or intervention skills.

Health psychologists may deal with problems identified by health care agencies (including NHS Trusts and health authorities) or by patients themselves. This is in addition to working alongside other medical professionals such as GP’s, nurses, dieticians, surgeons and rehabilitation therapists. Health psychologists may also deal with organisations and employees outside the health care system.

In universities, Health Psychologists are employed in lecturing, supervision and research roles in a range of departments including; Psychology, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Health Services Research.

CN: How can health psychology help us understand the complex problems of health and healthcare?

AB: Health psychology is a rapidly evolving profession. Health psychologists play a major role in preventing illness by helping people lead a healthier lifestyle. For example, a health psychologist may work towards identifying behaviours that may damage a person’s health for example, smoking, drug abuse, poor diet, then reviews theories and empirical evidence on how psychological theories and interventions can support prevention and designs health-related behaviour change intervention to meet the person’s needs. They also help people with a long-term physical condition adjust to the psychological challenges and also to the physical symptoms of the condition, symptoms like pain or fatigue. Health psychologists explore people’s attitudes and awareness towards their condition and find ways to help people to come to terms with a diagnosis or follow medical advice. Health psychologists work with individuals, small groups or use technology to deliver effective behavioural change interventions.

CN: What role can health psychologists play in the health service?

AB: Health psychologists are linked up with other health professionals, physicians, nurses, physiotherapists, etc., and promote thinking of the psychological underpinnings of physical symptoms as well as psychological foundation of why or why not an individual will engage health-related behaviours.

Health psychology plays a significant role in all different aspects of the health and illness spectrum. For example, in promotion and maintenance of health, health psychologists can design health education programmes or media campaigns to encourage healthy lifestyles and behaviours; in prevention and treatment of disease, health psychologists may help people reduce high blood pressure or adhere to medication and rehabilitation programmes or design programmes to reduce risky sexual behaviour.  

Health psychologist can also intervene in causes and detection of illness, by exploring the role of psychological factors in the development of illness, help-seeking behaviours and screening programmes. The psychological aspect of a condition can have a huge effect on people and how they adjust to their condition. Finally, health psychology plays a significant role in improving the health care system and health policy. For example, health psychologists are looking at how the patients are affected by the hospital environment, communication and information provision.

CN: What're some of the current research going on in the department?

AB: Members of the Health Psychology Group have a strong track record in research funding and high-quality peer-reviewed publications, in both medical and psychological journals. The current focus of research within the group is on adaptation to and self-management of long term conditions, telehealth and telecare, the impact of surgery, medical treatments on cognition and informal caregiving.

The group has an active role in designing, developing and evaluating patient-centred interventions, in conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, dementias, diabetes, immune disorders, respiratory conditions, visual dysfunctions, end stage renal disease and voice disorders. The group has strong links with industry, NHS Trusts and the Department of Health (England) and our work influences the development of remote monitoring technologies and health policy in this area. For our research projects we collaborate with the East London NHS Foundation Trust, University College London Hospitals, King’s College Hospital, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, BUPA, National University of Singapore and the NHS East and North Hertfordshire CCG.

Some members of the group focus on the development and evaluation of remote monitoring technologies that aim to improve the management of long-term conditions (telehealth) and patient safety (telecare). Projects include the Whole Systems Demonstrator Evaluation, which investigates home-based remote monitoring for patients with COPD, diabetes or heart failure and the vulnerable elderly and the T+ Study, which evaluates smartphone technologies for monitoring diabetes.

Other research includes testing the feasibility of using videoconferencing technology for the delivery of aphasia therapy and mindfulness courses for neurological conditions and using web-based applications to facilitate self-help to improve postnatal wellbeing and treat low-level postpartum psychological problems.

Members of our Health Psychology Group are also involved in the development and evaluation of enhanced audit and feedback interventions to increase the uptake of evidence-based transfusion practice. Their recent research paper on self-management in haemodialysis was named among the top 10 abstracts out of 2,400 at the European Renal Association and European Dialysis and Transplant Association's (ERA-EDTA) annual congress. The paper demonstrated improved adherence and clinical outcomes after the self-management intervention.

Find out more about the course http://www.city.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/health-psychology-psychology-and-health

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