Working life

Health psychologists are specially trained to help people deal with the psychological and emotional aspects of health and illness as well as supporting people who are chronically ill.

They promote healthier lifestyles and try to find ways to encourage people to improve their health. For example, they may help people to lose weight or stop smoking. Health psychologists also use their skills to try to improve the healthcare system. For example, they may advise doctors about better ways to communicate with their patients.

You’ll be part of a rapidly evolving profession that uses the practice and application of psychology to study behaviour relevant to health, illness and healthcare.

Working directly with individuals or small groups, your work will be far-reaching and may involve:

  • identifying behaviours that may damage a person’s health eg smoking, drug abuse, poor diet and how psychological theories and interventions can support prevention and health related behaviour change
  • encouraging behaviours such as exercise, a healthy diet, oral hygiene, health checks/self-examination and attending preventative medical screenings
  • investigating cognitive behaviour to mediate and determine health and illness behaviours. A range of models and frameworks are used, not only to explain and predict behaviour, but also for developing interventions eg changing health beliefs, increasing internal control or self belief
  • investigating the nature and effects of communication between health professionals and patients including interventions to improve communication
  • looking at the psychological impact of illness on individuals, families and carers
  • You’ll also use psychological interventions to help self-management of illness and coping with pain or illness. You may also provide information and advice to a range of organisations involved in public health such as the NHS and local authorities.

Entry Requirements

You’ll need a BSc or BA honours degree in psychology to become a Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society which allows you to apply for post graduate courses in health psychology.