Is becoming a health psychologist right for me?

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What do health psychologists do?

Still unsure if becoming a health psychologist is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a health psychologist or another similar career!

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How to become a Health Psychologist

To become a health psychologist, you generally need to follow these steps:

  • Obtain a Bachelor's Degree: Start by earning a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology or a related field. It is important to complete courses that cover the foundational principles of psychology and human behavior. You may also want to take elective courses in health psychology or related areas to gain a deeper understanding of the field.
  • Earn a Master's Degree (Optional): While not always required, some individuals choose to pursue a Master's Degree in Health Psychology or a related field to enhance their knowledge and competitiveness. A master's degree can provide advanced training in areas such as health behavior change, psychophysiology, and biopsychosocial approaches to health. Additionally, some programs offer opportunities for research or clinical experience.
  • Earn a Doctoral Degree: To become a licensed and practicing health psychologist, a doctoral degree is typically required. There are two main options: a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology or Health Psychology. These programs typically take four to six years to complete and involve coursework, research, and clinical training. It is essential to choose a program that aligns with your career goals and offers coursework and research opportunities focused on health psychology.
  • Complete an Internship: As part of your doctoral program, you will likely be required to complete an internship. This internship provides supervised clinical experience in a healthcare or clinical setting, allowing you to apply your knowledge and skills in real-world situations. The internship is typically a year-long commitment and provides valuable hands-on experience working with individuals facing health-related challenges.
  • Obtain Licensure: After completing your doctoral degree and internship, you must become licensed to practice as a psychologist. Licensure requirements vary by state, but they generally include passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and completing a specified number of supervised clinical hours. Some states may also have additional requirements, such as an oral examination or jurisprudence exam to assess knowledge of professional ethics and state laws.
  • Gain Experience: Following licensure, it is beneficial to gain postdoctoral experience in health psychology. This may involve working in a clinical or research setting under the supervision of experienced health psychologists. Postdoctoral experience allows you to further refine your skills, develop specialized expertise, and build a professional network within the field.
  • Specialize and Pursue Certification (Optional): While not mandatory, you may choose to pursue certification in health psychology through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). Certification demonstrates advanced competence in the field and can enhance your professional credibility and career opportunities (see below).
  • Continued Professional Development: As a health psychologist, it is important to engage in ongoing professional development. This may involve attending conferences, staying updated on current research and best practices in health psychology, participating in continuing education courses, and maintaining membership in professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Society for Health Psychology.

Health psychologists have the option to pursue certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). The ABPP offers board certification in the specialty area of Clinical Health Psychology, which encompasses the practice of health psychology.

To become board certified in Clinical Health Psychology, health psychologists must meet rigorous criteria set by the ABPP, including:

  • Education and Training: Candidates must hold a doctoral degree in psychology from an accredited institution and have completed a specialized doctoral program in health psychology or a related field. They must also have completed an internship and postdoctoral training that meets the ABPP's criteria.
  • Licensure: Candidates must hold a current and unrestricted license to practice psychology in their jurisdiction. This typically requires completing the necessary supervised clinical hours, passing a licensing exam, and meeting any additional state-specific requirements.
  • Experience: Candidates must have a minimum of five years of postdoctoral experience in the practice of health psychology. This should include direct patient/client care, as well as consultation, research, teaching, and supervisory activities.
  • Competency Evaluation: Candidates must demonstrate their competency through a comprehensive evaluation process, which includes submitting documentation of their education, training, licensure, and experience. They must also provide case studies that highlight their expertise in health psychology and undergo an oral examination conducted by a panel of board-certified psychologists.
  • Ethical Standards: Candidates must adhere to the ethical guidelines set forth by the ABPP, which include demonstrating ethical conduct, maintaining confidentiality, and promoting the well-being of their clients/patients.