What is Medical Psychology?
Medical Psychology is a sub discipline of psychology that applies psychological principles to the field of medicine. It draws from the fields of clinical psychology, health psychology, behavioral medicine, psychopharmacology and traditional medical science to provide a broad spectrum of services.
Services provided in the Medical Psychology field include advanced psychological diagnosis, treatment, and consultations about the use of any psychotropic medication. However, despite its misleading title, a Medical Psychologist does not automatically have the authority to prescribe medication. Any psychologist who desires to prescribe medication must first meet specific qualifications in psychopharmacology.
Medical Psychologists are Clinical Psychologists who have undergone specialized training on the post-doctoral level. These professionals integrate somatic (bodily functions) and therapeutic modalities to address mental and physical disorders. Medical Psychologists are trained to modify diseased states within the central nervous system. They focus on preventing and slowing down the progression of disease as it relates to poor life-style choices, complex behavioral patterns, and extensive exposure to the effects of negative thinking and attitudes.
Related: Becoming a Health Psychologist
Medical Psychology is closely related to the field of Behavioral Medicine however the two fields are distinctively different. The major distinction is that practitioners of Behavioral Medicine focus on applying psychological dynamics to a wide variety of medical conditions such as asthma, spinal cord injury, chronic pain, cardiac issues and other physical disorders. Medical Psychologists focus on modifying ailments within the central nervous system.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the entire discipline of psychology is expected to grow 12 percent between 2012 and 2022. In addition, Princeton University describes the field of Medical Psychology as a growing area of specialization within the Clinical Psychology field. The field of Medical Psychology is expected to continue to grow over the next few years as it was noted by a member of the Academy of Medical Psychology that this field is emerging as one of the best partners for general practitioners.
Career Path and Options
Compared with the other sub-fields of psychology, Medical Psychology is in its infancy. Therefore, most Medical Psychologists practice their discipline within medical and health care facilities. They combine psychological theories, behavior modification, therapy, and lifestyle changes to help clients improve their health and general wellbeing.
If appropriately licensed, Medical Psychologists can also prescribe medication to help their clients make health and lifestyle improvements. However, there are only two states, Louisiana and New Mexico, that include prescription of medication in the job description of Medical Psychologists. All branches of the US armed forces also allow Medical Psychologists to use medication for the care and management of patients.
The majority of governmental agencies and all of the other US states do not allow Medical Psychologists to prescribe medication. Instead, these professionals generally focus on managing mental and physical disorders through a combination of other modalities. Medical Psychologists are often asked to offer guidance as a member of a multidisciplinary team to ensure the integration of patient care.
Medical Psychology is a clinical psychology specialization. Although there was no specific wage listed for a Medical Psychologist, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Clinical Psychologists earn an average mean wage of $72,710 annually.
College and University Faculty
Like most areas of psychology, Medical Psychologists can be found teaching and conducting research in college and university settings. You might also find a large number of professionals from this field conducting research at medical schools. Their selected area of research may be general or they may choose to participate in more specialized research such as in pediatrics, chronic pain management, or psychological issues pertaining to debilitating diseases.
In addition to teaching regular classes, Medical Psychologists might also supervise practicum and internship experiences with medical students as well as Psychology students. These professionals may also assist with organizing and running support groups in the university setting.
Although a specific wage for University Faculty was not noted, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the related career of Postsecondary Education Teacher earns an average mean wage of $65,630 annually.
As a Clinical Psychologist with specialized training, a Medical Psychologist can choose to go into private practice. As a private practitioner, there are many roles that one can pursue. Providing consultations for mental health facilities, doctor’s offices, and hospitals are opportunities available to the Medical Psychologist. General Practitioners and busy hospitals are in great need for mental health services therefore the Medical Psychologist might easily provide consultative services for these facilities.
Providing treatment for private clients is another option for the Private Practitioner. Treatment would involve helping private clients manage their mental and physical health by learning to integrate their somatic concerns with psychotherapy and behavioral changes.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Clinical Psychologists earn an average mean wage of $72,710 annually.
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