Health Medical Psychologist

how to become a health medical psychologist

Dealing with serious illness is a difficult and often traumatic experience.  While medical doctors focus on physical illness, a health-medical psychologist specializes in helping patients deal with the psychological effects of the illness.  Some health-medical psychologists are doctoral-level clinical psychologists who receive specialized medical training.  They can treat the physical side of an illness and prescribe medications.

What Health Medical Psychologists Do

Health-medical psychologists work with patients to manage the emotional side of chronic illnesses, help with pain management and prescribe medications.  They use techniques such as hypnosis, relaxation techniques, guided imagery, acupuncture and homeopathy.  They help patients cope with the reality of serious medical diagnosis, fear, depression and the reality of an uncertain future.  They also work with patient’s families experiencing the stress of a chronically ill family member.

Health-medical psychologists also work with patients with mental illnesses and can prescribe medications for stress reduction and behavioral issues.  They work with clients and patients to prevent illness, offering classes on stress reduction, smoking cessation and how to replace unhealthy habits.

Health-medical psychologists also do research, focusing on the causes and effects of health problems, the best preventive health methods, and new techniques for pain management and how to encourage proactive, preventive health care.

Education Requirements for Health Medical Psychologists

Medical-health psychologists are licensed clinical psychologists with a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree in Psychology.  After completing doctoral studies, some states require an internship or a period of supervised training in the field before taking the state licensing exam.   Some health-medical psychologists complete advanced post-doctoral medical training.

There are career opportunities for those with a bachelor’s or master’s level degree, such as working in community health or correctional facilities.   Positions are limited, and these individuals would work under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist.

Licensing/Certification for Health Medical Psychologists

Licensing requirements vary from state to state, although to practice as a health-medical psychologist you must complete the educational requirements and be licensed as a clinical psychologist.

The American Board of Professional Psychology offers board certification in health psychology.  The American Board of Psychological Specialties, a division of the American College of Forensic Examiners created a specialty in the area of medical psychology.

Work Environment

Health-medical psychologists work in a variety of settings.   Many set up a private practice and work with clients in a private office setting or in hospitals.  They do clinical work with patients and families in hospital and clinics and conduct research in hospitals or academic settings.

Some work for government or private agencies as lobbyists or advisers on health care reform, legislation and in the interest of public health and safety.  Occupational health psychology is a relatively new field focusing on how the workplace can influence the health and well-being of employees.

How Much do Health Medical Psychologists Earn?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported the median annual salary for the group that includes health-medical psychologists was between $87,000 and $89,000.  Those with advanced education or certifications can earn a higher salary.

Salaries will vary by state and metropolitan area, and whether they work in the public or private sector.

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