As a health psychologist, you support people in managing the psychological and emotional aspects of health, as well as chronic illness.
Your job will involve promoting healthy lifestyles and finding ways of encouraging people to improve their health. This might typically focus weight loss or smoking cessation.
You may also advise healthcare professionals about more effective ways of communicating with patients.
By studying at City, University of London you can acquire modern interdisciplinary knowledge about evidence-based practice and research for leading public health initiatives.
We conduct world class research across areas of health and psychology including memory, decision making and cognitive neuroscience.
What can I expect from a career as a health psychologist?
Your work will focus on how psychological, emotional and social factors impact physical well-being.
Also known as medical psychology, the field also concerns the mental reaction to illness or recovery from an illness.
Health psychologist jobs can vary broadly depending on certain specialities.
The four main branches of health psychology careers are clinical health psychology, community health psychology, occupational health psychology and public health psychology.
- Clinical health psychology involves treatment and how lifestyle and behaviour can affect general health
- Community health psychology concentrates on the health of a community as a whole, focusing on prevalent diseases in certain communities
- Occupational health psychology addresses how individual jobs can impact health. It can mean working with businesses to create better working environments and healthier employees
- Public health psychology concerns public and government health policies and programmes. You might work with low-income families, influence government health policies, or lead public health awareness campaigns.
Your duties as a health psychologist may include:
- Identifying behaviours damaging health such as smoking, substance abuse, or diet
- Forming psychological theories and interventions to support prevention and behaviour change
- Promoting behaviours such as exercise, a healthy diet, oral hygiene, health checks/self-examination
- Investigating cognitive behaviour to analyse health and illness behaviours
- Improving communication between health professionals and patients
- Evaluating the psychological impact of illness.
You will work with various medical professionals, providing information and advice to public health organisations such as the National Health Service and local authorities.
The work can be challenging, especially if you encounter people in distress. But supporting, observing and documenting progress can be incredibly rewarding.
Related courses at City
Whatever your level of interest in becoming a health psychologist, City's courses can help you take one step closer to a career as a health psychologist, develop specialisms that'll set you apart from the field or broaden your horizons with study in related subjects.
Who can I work for as a health psychologist?
As a health psychologist, you can work across a range of healthcare providers. You are most likely to work for the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK or Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland (HSC).
Charities, health research units, local authorities, private hospitals and universities may also offer work. Health consultancies might employ health psychologists in areas such as training, research or intervention skills.
What about work experience as a health psychologist?
Relevant work experience is strongly advised, particularly because entry to postgraduate programmes is so competitive.
You can gain experience through paid or voluntary roles such as shadowing health psychologists working with patients or supporting patients with stroke rehabilitation.
Any experience in connected areas including nursing, social work or care work will also be useful. It can help offer you an insight, shape your ambitions and give you contacts.
Research experience can be helpful as a balance in academic and applied health is considered positively.
What are my prospects as a health psychologist?
Once qualified you will probably begin your career as a trainee or an assistant health psychologist.
With experience you can progress to senior roles before considering positions such as principal health psychologist or consultant health psychologist. These roles demand experienced practitioners with substantial experience of working in applied settings.
You might take the chance to specialise in certain areas of health psychology like eating disorders, substance abuse or addictive behaviours.
Academia is also an option through which to pursue a health psychologist career. You can build teaching skills and experience while growing your research profile.
You may also have the chance to transfer your skills between employers, from applied practice to academia. Combined appointments between universities and health services are also possible.