Health psychology, also known as medical psychology or behavioral medicine, focuses on how biology, psychology, behavior, and social factors influence health and well-being. It's a diverse and rich field worth exploring if you're studying to be a health professional and have an assignment that requires doing research or writing a paper.
Next time you're looking for a research topic for your studies and would like to focus on health psychology, consider the suggestions that follow.
These can be the inspiration for an experiment, a research paper, or any other type of class project. Before you begin, make sure the topic you're interested in is in keeping with the specific assignment. Even if your instructor doesn't require you to get approval for your intended topic, it's always a good idea to run it by him before you delve too deeply into your research.
And of course make sure you've chosen a subject that you know you'll be able to find appropriate sources for. You wouldn't want to commit to a project only to find that there's not enough existing information to work with. Again, input from your instructor can prevent you from wasting time on a topic that offers little to go on.
EXERCISE AND EATING BEHAVIOR TOPICS
- Explore some of the psychological strategies that can help people stick to a diet and exercise program. Is there any one strategy that is more effective than others?
- Analyze how media depictions of "ideal" bodies influence anorexia and bulimia. Is there a link between exposure to these images and eating disorders?
FAMILY HEALTH AND SAFETY TOPICS
- Explore how increased public awareness of infant safety, such as placing an infant on his back to sleep, removing pillows and other objects from the sleeping area, etc., have influenced the occurrence of SIDS or "crib death." Has the number of SIDS-related deaths gone down? Why do some parents ignore these sleep safety guidelines?
- Assess current approaches to childhood immunizations. Why do some parents choose not to immunize their children? How does this impact public health? What can health professionals do to increase the likelihood that kids are immunized?
- Explore the factors that contribute to teen suicide. How effective are suicide prevention programs?
- Look at the emotional, social and psychological impact of care-giving, such as taking care of an aging parent, a family member with AIDS or a spouse suffering from Alzheimer's.
PUBLIC HEALTH TOPICS
- What can mental health and medical professionals do to help people cope in the immediate aftermath of a disaster? Are there any strategies that result in better long-term outcomes?
- Research the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans. What factors contribute to whether an individual experiences PTSD? What mental health interventions are most effective at treating this disorder?
- Evaluate how stress management techniques and relaxation methods can help patients suffering from chronic pain. How effective are these tactics? How do they compare to traditional pharmacological approaches to pain management?
- Compare and contrast different approaches to smoking cessation. Which strategies are the most effective?
- Look at different techniques that can be used to increase the likelihood that people will use safety equipment such as seat belts and bicycle helmets. What type of public safety program would you devise to encourage the use of these products?
How does psychology affect ones physical health? Several psychological factors including stress, behavior due to chronic pain, depression, and cultural beliefs can have adverse affects on the body’s physical condition. The treatment of both physiological and psychological aspects of poor health are crucial for patients to have successful treatment outcomes, maintain and improve wellness, and improved adherence to medical regimens.
Adding a team of five psychologists to a hospital’s staff and assigning specific job titles and duties to each psychologist would be immensely beneficial to the patients. The five job titles include substance abuse counselor, inpatient-only psychologist, child psychologist, adult psychologist, and pain psychologist. Substance Abuse Counselor Substance abuse counseling is a demanding and rewarding job that requires patience, a desire to help others, and compassion (The Princeton Review, 2008). Often, addicts are unaware of the services that can be provided to them.
A substance abuse counselor can refer patients to other services such as family agencies, food pantries, a psychiatrist or physician, and welfare agents. Depending on the needs of the addict and their situation other services may be available as well (The Princeton Review, 2008). The substance abuse counselor will be in charge of coordinating the use of recovery programs and structured programs for substance abuse, in conjunction with a social worker. Substance abuse counselors work with a variety of professionals in order to provide the best service to the each patient.
Along with coordinating recovery programs, the substance abuse counselor will collaborate with local schools and provide information to children about substance abuse and how abstain from using substances. He or she will provide information on programs for students who have already started using substances, and for those who have parents that abuse substances. Motivational interviewing is another service that the substance abuse counselor may provide in order to keep the addict on track.
With motivational interviewing, the patient becomes aware of potential problems caused, consequences experienced, and risks factors of their behavior. The counselor will help the patient envision a brighter future, while keeping him or her motivated to achieve set goals (Axia College of University of Phoenix, 2008). Because substance abuse counselors can have as little as a high school diploma for their education, strict job limitations must be set. The counselor may not prescribe medicine, diagnose the patient, or provide psychological therapy.
Instead, he or she may refer the patient to a specialist who can further help the patient with medical needs. A substance abuse counselor will be very helpful to reduce hospital stays and increase adherence to medical regimens. Substance abuse counseling can be done on an outpatient basis and may help the patient to avoid a relapse which occurs most during the first weeks and months of treatment (Axia College of University of Phoenix, 2008). Through the use of motivational interviewing, the counselor will be able to keep the patient motivated and on track with his or her medical regimens.
Substance abuse counselors provide support toward the improvement and maintenance of health by keeping the patient motivated, referring him or her to other needed services, and helping him or her cope with their addiction. Inpatient-Only Psychologist Providing inpatient therapies and services to the patients who are admitted to the hospital is a necessity. An inpatient-only therapist will utilize various methods to facilitate adjustment and coping skills with patients suffering a chronic or terminal illness. A majority of the patients who are admitted to the hospital are there because they are seriously ill.
The inpatient-only therapist will provide services such as teaching coping skills to help patients adjust to their illness, individual and family therapy sessions, and refer the patient to support groups if desired. Although an inpatient-only psychologist may make decisions such as prescribing medicine, he or she can diagnose a psychological illness and decide an appropriate treatment plan. If he or she feels the patient needs medication, the inpatient-only psychologist may refer the patient to a psychiatrist for further evaluation.
An inpatient-only psychologist will decrease hospitalization time because he or she will aid in the coping and adjustment to a chronic or terminal illness. Once the patient has successfully adjusted to his or her illness, depending on the severity of the disease, he or she may be able to return home and continue regular activities. Having an inpatient psychologist will also improve the patient’s adherence to medical regimens.
According to Axia College of University of Phoenix (2008), using behavioral methods such as tailoring the regimen to make it as compatible with the patient’s habits and rewarding him or her for following the given regimen, can help to improve compliance. The role of the inpatient-only psychologist will support the improvement and maintenance of patient wellness by helping the chronically and terminally ill patients adjust to their illness and maintain their usual lifestyle in a way that keeps them complying with medical regimens. Child Psychologist Children react to and cope with illness very differently from adults.
As a part of the team of psychologists working for the hospital, the child psychologist will collaborate with local schools to help children with medical conditions cope with being ill. In the hospital, he or she will provide psychological preparation methods for children prior to medical procedures. According to Axia College of University of Phoenix (2008), over 2. 5 million patients admitted to short-stay hospitals are under the age of 15. How much a child understands about being hospitalized and his or her illness depends on his or her age.
The child psychologist will be responsible for providing informational techniques such as pamphlets, movies, puppet shows, and tours to help the child settle down and cope with the facility and his or her procedures. The psychologist may also work with parents to develop techniques to prepare the child for procedures and for adjusting to every day life when the child returns home. For most hospitalized children who have a positive outcome, their stress level appears to be temporary and does not seem to produce long-term emotional problems (Axia College of University of Phoenix, 2008).
Therefore, by having a child psychologist to improve a child’s hospital experience, the child may have shorter hospitalization and can understand his or her illness better in order to adhere to medical regimens. The role of a child psychologist is supportive toward improvement and maintenance of wellness because the specialized training of the psychologists allows him or her to design treatment plans and preparation techniques that will better help the child understand what is wrong and how to treat the problem.
Adult psychologists are similar to child psychologists except their target group would be people ranging from early adults to senior citizens. Like the child psychologist, the adult psychologist will provide psychological preparation methods to his or her patients before a medical procedure or surgery. He or she will be responsible for diagnosing stress disorders in adults and aiding in stress interventions. Although the adult psychologist will not prescribe medicine he or she can determine patient diagnosis and treatment plans.
If medications are needed then the psychologist may refer the patient to other specialists. The Adult psychologist will provide services such as teaching stress relieving techniques which include cognitive therapy, problem-solving training, and stress-inoculation training (Axia College of University of Phoenix, 2008). If necessary, the psychologist may refer patients to a massage therapist to reduce muscle tension caused by stress. Like children, adults with a positive hospitalization outcome are likely to experience reduced stress and anxiety which may cause a faster recovery.
When the adult is able to address his or her concerns and get answers from the psychologist, he or she will likely adhere to medical regimens because his or her anxieties toward the regimen have been addressed. Improvement and maintenance of health will be supported by the Adult psychologist by mentally preparing patients for medical procedures, reducing stress and anxiety, and addressing the concerns of the patient. Pain Psychologist Pain can have adverse affects on both the physical and psychological health of a patient.
When pain and discomfort derives from tissue damage it is called organic pain. Pain perceived through psychological processes is called psychogenic pain (Axia College of University of Phoenix, 2008). The responsibilities of the pain psychologist include providing treatment for chronic pain, designing and implementing behavioral intervention plans, and teaching the patient and his or her family skills to meet future mental health needs. He or she will provide services such as behavioral and cognitive treatments to reduce pain.
Having a pain psychologist on staff will reduce hospitalization time by offering outpatient services and teaching the patients and their family how to alter their everyday lives in order to meet the needs of the patient. By addressing the patient’s psychosocial factors, such as making the patient state that he or she will comply with the regimen and involving family for social support, the patients is more likely to comply with medical regimens (Axia College of University of Phoenix, 2008).
Like the other psychologists, the role of the pain psychologist will be supportive toward improvement and maintenance of wellness by improving patient compliance and designing treatment plans that are individualized to the patient. Several hospitals have already implemented a team of psychologists as their staff.
One hospital in central Connecticut has a staff with seven different psychologists specializing in many areas of psychology. Hospital physicians have stated that having the team of psychologists on hand to treat patients in need has improved attendance and compliance (APApractice.Org, n. d. ).
Each of the selected roles is very important for providing quality patient care. By not implementing one of the roles, the psychologist may become overwhelmed with work and the patients will not receive the specialized care that is important to a successful diagnosis and treatment. Although some of the job duties overlap between the psychologists, this may be helpful to reduce the workload of each psychologist and keep a high-level of quality care.
Each of the psychologists is specialized in a certain area of psychological treatment, but some of them do perform similar job duties. Having an overlap in job duties may be beneficial for second opinions and covering shifts when one psychologist becomes ill or takes a vacation. Many patients with a physical illness can suffer from emotional problems as well. Patients would be better off with the services provided by the psychologists because every aspect of their illness will be addressed and treated.
Without psychological services available to the patient, the patient may never address his or her mental needs which can lead to more physical illnesses. According to APApractice. Org (n. d. ), patients often present emotional problems that physicians do not know how to handle. Therefore, adding a team of psychologists would be more beneficial to the patients than disregarding the option of psychological services within the hospital. Overall, the implementation of psychological services in a hospital has proven to be beneficial for the hospitals who have already hired a team of psychologists.
By adding a team of psychologists consisting of a substance abuse counselor, an inpatient-only psychologist, an adult psychologist, a child psychologist, and a pain psychologist; hospitalized patients will experience shorter hospitalizations, increased quality of care, and will adhere to medical regimens more often. Not only will patients receive quality inpatient care, but they can continue their care on an outpatient basis which will help to keep them on track with their treatments.
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