Psychologists are increasingly being employed in health-care settings, in the specialty area of clinical health psychology, where they address a wide range of mind-body issues. This trend marks a shift away from the centuries old Cartesian mind-body dualism that permeated the fields of psychology and medicine for most of their modern history. The biopsychosocial model (Engel, 1977) represents a contemporary alternative to mind-body dualism. This paradigm recognizes that the interrelationship between medical, psychological, behavioral, sociocultural, and environmental factors impact objective and subjective experiences of health and illness. The dualistic question of whether a patient has a “mental or physical problem” is viewed as an artificial one, as psychologists strive to facilitate an integrative understanding and treatment of psyche and soma. As an extension of the biopsychosocial model, psychologists in medical settings are simply seen as health professionals, rather than mental health professionals, in recognition of their participation in improving both the mental and physical health of their patients. They are, in fact, regarded as a central part of the health-care team in many settings discussed below.
Biopsychosocial orientation notwithstanding, it remains crucial for psychologists in medical settings to be strongly grounded in traditional mental health diagnosis and treatment. Other health professionals rely on psychologists to be experts in identifying co-morbid psychological disorders and providing treatment or treatment recommendations for those disorders. As such, clinical psychologists in medical settings ought to have a strong generalist foundation before progressing to more specialized training in clinical health psychology. Similarly, psychologists need to draw upon a wide scope of theories of behavior, personality, and psychopathology. For this reason, beyond their initial training, clinical health psychologists must continue to update their knowledge in mental health diagnosis and treatment throughout their careers.
Medical Setting Psychiatric History Psychological Evaluation Biopsychosocial Model Health Habit
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