Adelphi Professor Carolyn M. Springer, Ph.D., provides insight on the ways psychologists can influence the field of medicine.

We asked Adelphi Professor Carolyn M. Springer, Ph.D., for some guidance on the ways that psychologists can influence medical care and the field of medicine. Here are her insights and tips.

What are some ways in which psychology can impact behavioral medicine, for example, asthma, smoking and cardiology?

Psychological theories, methods and practice can be used to understand an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behavior with regard to health and illness and to inform appropriate interventions and policies. Examples include the impact of developmental stages; the intersection of different socio-demographic variables, such as culture, race, gender and social class; the impact of media; how health providers communicate information; how personality impacts coping; and the impact of the physical environment and geographic location on access to healthcare.

How can psychologists improve total health/well-being?

  1. Think about psychology as an applied science that can be used to develop conceptual models and strategies and interventions to promote health.
  2. Learn about the major health issues that your client population is facing and have health information available.
  3. Collaborate with medical providers, for example, doctors, dentists and nurses. 
  4. Individuals who are reluctant to seek psychological services will seek out medical care.
  5. Spread the word. Give information sessions to community groups and write articles for popular journals and local newspapers.

How can clinicians integrate wellness into traditional psychological practice?

  1. Focus on health promotion while dealing with presenting issues or problems.
  2. Discuss the impact of stress and the need for balance. 
  3. Discuss the importance of having a sound mind in a healthy body and encourage healthy diets, exercise and sufficient rest. 
  4. Encourage clients to take small steps to improve their health rather than making major changes, for example, get off a stop earlier on the subway or bus, park farther away, take the stairs rather than the elevator, carry groceries rather than always using a cart. 
  5. Ask questions about spirituality and meaning and purpose in the person’s life. 
  6. Explore the role of creativity and the arts in a person’s life.
This piece appeared in the Derner eNews Fall 2012 edition.

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