Health psychology is a specialization of clinical psychology that focuses on how biology, psychology, behavior, and social factors influence health and illness. It also has been called medical psychology and behavioral medicine. Health psychologists help patients maintain healthy lifestyles, avoid preventable diseases, and manage both acute and chronic illness.
Having a psychological evaluation is a routine part of patient care before and during many medical treatments, and as part of various types of surgery in hospitals nationwide. Understanding your behavior and psychological needs is one way in which doctors can treat the whole person, not just the specific medical diagnosis they are treating you for. Having a psychological evaluation is one step in helping to ensure the best outcome possible for medical treatment and/or surgery.
If you have been referred as part of the work-up for a specific medical treatment or surgery, the health psychologist’s role is to assist the team in determining a patient’s readiness for the treatment and/or surgery in question. The health psychologist may also provide or recommend other services to help enhance a patient’s overall health and wellbeing and may make other recommendations to improve your candidacy for the treatment/surgery in question. If you are a weight loss surgery patient, once you advance to surgery, the health psychology team offers a 5-session adjustment to surgery group program, which you will be required to attend. Finally, if you have been referred for therapy by one of your physicians, then the health psychologist will first conduct an evaluation to determine the best treatment options for your presenting problem, and will then be involved in delivering that treatment, if appropriate.
If you have been referred for an evaluation, then the typical visit will last between 2 to 3 hours. If patients are given or mailed a questionnaire prior to the day of their appointment, it is important to bring the completed questionnaire to the appointment. During the appointment, most patients will be asked to complete additional questionnaires. The rest of the appointment will involve having a conversation about topics related to the patient’s health and, if relevant, the treatment or surgery for which they are being considered.
If you have been referred for therapy, then the typical visit will last between 1 to 2 hours. During the first appointment, most patients will be asked to complete some questionnaires. The rest of the appointment will involve having a conversation about topics related to the patient’s presenting problem. Patients who wear reading glasses and/or hearing aids are asked to bring them the day of their appointment. Patients should arrange for childcare prior to the appointment, as the appointment requires a patient’s full attention; children cannot be allowed in the testing/interview area.