What is the Difference Between Health Psychology and Medical Psychology?

Last Updated: June 1, 2024


A health psychologist is a person who is dedicated to helping a patient manage and work through a chronic disease, using psychological theories and development methods that result in healthier living.

Helping people avoid falling susceptible to preventable diseases is also another area a health psychologist can play a significantly important role. Explorations into psychological, cultural, social, and biological factors are often explored through health psychology.

By working closely with those under their care, health psychologists help people to learn and understand how to make healthier choices when it comes to various elements ranging from the medications and drugs they choose to ingest to healthier lifestyle choices.

A medical psychologist is considered to be a general physician who uses some elements of psychology when making diagnosis. With the application of various psychological principles, as well as equally varied treatment methods, a complete and comprehensive conclusion can be reached. Through medical psychology there is some somatic and therapeutic use.

The application of psychological principles is widely practiced through medical psychology. Advanced diagnosis is usually required as clinical interventions are common in this field of psychology. Furthermore, medical psychology is usually practiced in a more formal environment.

Understanding Health Psychology

In cases where medication is needed to address a particular medical condition, the introduction of psychology can also work to symbolically create improvements. This may allow the individual to empower themselves to cope better with their negative physical or mental condition.

Most of the work would involve using methodologies that encourage prevention rather than waiting for the stage where treatment is necessary. By encouraging a positive outlook through health psychology, many negative conditions can be successfully battled and possibly even reversed over time.

This is especially helpful when there is a diagnosis of terminal illness or chronic pain, whereby the mental state of the individual must be prevented into falling into deep depression or becoming overly anxious.

Other areas where health psychologists has been able to play a significant role in encouraging positive change would include the military. Here, too, those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders or those leaning towards suicidal tendencies as their solution to peace can be helped.

Understanding Medical Psychology

Here the handling of mental illness is dealt with in a different manner whereby there is some integration of somatic and psychotherapeutic style incorporated into any effort to help an individual overcome or cope better with the negative condition, when compared to health psychology methods.

In contrast to health psychology, medical psychology does depend more on focusing on addressing the causes, treatments and preventions of any abnormal psychological conditions. This is mostly targeted at the uniform services whereby more leeway is given to medical psychologists to prescribe suitable medications for treatments.

A lot of this is done through the use of medications, especially when the negative condition is severe. While this has proven to be successful in most cases, there are some other side effects that have surfaced because of this route of treatment methodology. Health psychology, in contrast, tries to avoid the introduction of medications wherever possible.

Medical psychology still tries to focus on the connection between physical, social and psychological events and how these bear some consequence on an individual’s ability to manage or work towards preventing or decreasing the impact of diseases.

However, the treatments eventually introduced heavily depends on scientific applications to ensure intervention exercises for conditions such as cardiac conditions, chronic spinal problems and certain types of brain injuries are more competently dealt with.

All these are typically done within a hospital environment or medical facility, which is much more formal in its approach to tackling negative conditions, as opposed to health psychology that can be introduced in a less daunting atmosphere.

The advanced diagnostic and clinical types of interventions chosen in medical psychology would usually include a study that encompasses behavioral medicine, clinical Psychology skills and knowledge of psychopharmacology besides the ever present medical science interests.

In the end it is really the cooperation between the individual having the negative condition and the psychologists handling the case, to design the best treatment option possible to help overcome the problem.

Although there is clear evidence that behavioral patterns can contribute, or at the very least, facilitate the development of chronic diseases and other negative mental and physical health conditions, it is nonetheless better to choose modest behavioral intervention styles as opposed to more intense treatments.

To explain one type of psychology practice, as having the legal ability to prescribe medications and the other does not have this extension is to explain the difference too simplistically. While both these psychology fields are designed to help those seeking assistance, the methodology adopted is a little different.

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