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Summary: Psychology and Medicine

Several different disciplines lie at the intersection of psychology and medicine. The field of psychosomatic medicine deals with psychological influences on illness. Originally it was dominated by Freudian concepts, but in the modern era it overlaps with behavioral medicine and health psychology in studying psycho­logical influences on health.

Psychologists work within hospitals and medical centers, performing functions such as psychological testing, patient interviews, counseling patients before surgery and other treatments such as chemotherapy. They also participate in therapies such for specific disorders such as pain and facial or muscle tics.

Psychologists sometimes counsel overutilizers in medical settings. Over­utilizers are people who come to emergency rooms when they should not, either because they have minor problems that could be addressed in less expen­sive clinics, or they have no medical problems at all. A single session of counseling is often enough to change this behavior.

Rehabilitation psychology is devoted to helping rehabilitate accident victims and people recovered from injuries, illness, or major surgery. Strokes, for example, can produce changes in personality that require adjustments in marital and other social roles, so counseling can be beneficial.

Behavioral medicine is an extension of behavioral psychology into medicine. It applies objective, evidence-based approaches to medical problems. Innovations include research into "gamification" of treatment objectives, using game-like incentives to promote health maintenance.

Health psychology is aimed at preventing medical problems by promoting good health using psychology. The focus can be on behaviors, emotions, planning, or anything else that affects health. Smartphone apps can help with diagnosing skin cancers and promoting exercise.

By far the majority of health issues faced in medical settings (such as effects of tobacco, alcohol, and opioid use) are the result of individual choices. These can be influenced by accurate and useful information provided by health psychologists.


Write to Dr. Dewey at psywww@gmail.com.


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