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Clinician's Corner

What Is Health Psychology?
By Britt Ann Peterson, Ph.D.

Health Psychology is a specialty focused on:

  1. Promoting Health
  2. Preventing Disease
  3. Facilitating optimal Well-Being in individuals Living with Illness

Our health is influenced by an interaction between biological (e.g. genetic predisposition) and psychological (e.g. beliefs, health habits, emotional responses, interactions with environment) factors. Also known as behavioral medicine and medical psychology, Health Psychology is a specialty focused on examining the interrelationship between these factors.

Clinical health psychologists apply knowledge from psychological science to help individuals achieve optimal health, well-being, and resilience. Almost everyone can benefit from health psychology.

Targets for Intervention
Targets for intervention are diverse and range from strengthening motivation and maintaining focus, to minimizing the impact of stress, to maximizing quality of life and the ability to manage complex medical demands. Following are some issues that may be targeted for intervention:

• Stress Management
• Adjusting to Chronic or Terminal Illness
• Achieving Fitness Goals
• Preparation for Surgery
• Smoking Cessation
• Adhering with Complex Treatment Regimens
• Eating and Weight Management
• Coping with Medical Treatment/Side Effects
• Lifestyle and Health Behavior Change
• Medical Phobias and Health Fears
• Insomnia
• Anxiety and Panic Disorder
• Pain Management
• Somatic Concerns
• Infertility and Pregnancy Loss
• Depression
• Achieving Peak Performance
• Loss and End-of-Life Concerns

Strategies and Strengths
Interventions are evidence-based and come from current behavioral science research. Emphasis is placed on teaching strategies that build upon strengths. Some of the strategies commonly incorporated into consultations include:

Mindfulness ¨ Motivational Interviewing ¨ Problem-solving ¨ Goal-Setting ¨ Imagery
Hypnosis ¨ Assertive Communication ¨ Cognitive Restructuring and Mindset Training
Relaxation Exercises ¨ Enhancing Executive Brain Function ¨  
Exposure and Response Prevention

Clinical health psychologists work closely with physicians, nurses, and other specialists to support an integrated and comprehensive approach to health care.

Proven Benefits
Health psychologists employ evidence-based interventions. Evidence-based interventions are interventions that integrate clinical expertise and client preferences with empirical evidence (evidence from many research studies weighted by quality).

Clinical psychologists are uniquely qualified to conduct and evaluate behavioral science research. To date, there is a large body of research evidence supporting the efficacy of Health Psychology interventions.

Accessing Services
The mental health portion of an individual’s insurance benefits typically covers Health Psychology services. However, some services may be covered by the medical benefits. Consultation targeting well-being and peak performance is often on a private pay basis.

Your insurance company may list providers who have a specialty in Health Psychology. Health psychologists have a doctoral level degree in psychology and specialty training in Health Psychology. Graduate programs, internships, and post-doctoral fellowships provide specialty track training in Health Psychology.

A clinical health psychologist with 20 years of experience, Dr. Peterson is passionate about integrating evidence-based preventive and behavioral medicine into health care. To learn more about Dr. Peterson, please see her biography by clicking the Staff link.

Dr. Peterson practices at the Brookfield location and can be reached at 262-542-3255 ext. 237.

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