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Health Psychology Essay

Health psychology concerns itself with understanding behavior, biology and social context and their influences on illness and health. Health psychologists work with professionals in clinical areas and also conduct research as well as teach in universities. Health psychology aims at changing the health behavior of individuals to help them maintain optimum health and assist patients in adhering to treatment regimens. Adherence to medical regimens and shorter hospitalizations are indicators of effective health services.

Health psychologists use cognitive behavior therapy and analysis of applied behavior to achieve this. Discussion The duty list is composed of activities that are aimed at improving the access of services to patients and also to improve the overall healthcare of patients. In assignment of duties to the various health professionals some health psychologists will receive more than one duty on the list. This is because of some of the duties which are closely related making it more reasonable for these duties to be carried out by one person.

The list however has very many activities which if work load is considered makes it necessary to have a fifth job title. The fifth job title would be a communication skills counselor. The duties will then be allocated as follows, the substance abuse counselor will be responsible for coordinating the use of recovery programs and structured programs for substance. He/she will be working in conjunction with the social worker. The rationale behind this assignment is that the substance abuse counsellor is the person most appropriate for dealing with substance abusers in assisting them to get rehabilitated.

The nature of substance abuse is such that it has social and psychological components to it so the collaboration between the substance abuse counsellor and the social worker is necessary. The patient load in substance abuse programs is high because of the intensive nature of behavioural change programs that are used, hence the substance abuse counsellor will only have this duty assigned to them. The inpatient-only psychologist will be assigned to the duty of providing treatment for chronic pain. The psychologist will be performing this duty only.

This will be because of the large number of patients who have chronic pain. Managing these patients adequately means that the psychologist may not have enough time to attend to other duties. The child psychologist has two duties assigned to them. These are providing psychological preparation methods for children prior to medical procedures and collaboration with local schools. These are two duties which are closely related. By being involved with local schools the psychologist will already be familiar to the children making it easier for them to get children to cooperate when in the hospital.

The adult psychologist will have the duty of providing psychological preparation methods for the adults prior to medical procedures and surgery. The workload for this psychologist is expected to be high since most of the patients are adults, hence the adult psychologist will only have this duty. The fifth job is that of communications counsellor, who will be carrying out duties of utilizing various methods to facilitate adjustment and coping skills amongst the patients. This psychologist will also have the role of diagnosing stress disorders and providing aid in stress relief interventions.

The rationale behind this assignment is that the two duties are also closely related. The effect of poor adjustment to a condition and inability is often stress (Broome, Llewelyn and Llewelyn, 1994). Sometimes the relationship is vice versa, with high stress levels causing poor adjustment to one’s condition (Lyons and Chamberlain, 2006 ). The substance abuse counsellor will contribute to improved patient healthcare by provision of services geared towards behavior change that will enable the patient to be completely rehabilitated.

The HBM (Health Behaviour Model) proposes that behavior change occurs when an individual perceives that the benefits of behavior change outweigh the costs or barriers that are associated with the behavior. (Friedman and Silver, ). The substance abuse counsellor will use such a model to predict the possibility of behavior change for the substance abuser. The usefulness of the HBM has been seen in its predictive value of whether individuals will adopt behavior such as safe-sex practices, breast self-examination and exercise (Friedman and Silver, ).

The substance abuse counsellor will use cognitive behavioral therapy to educate substance abusers about the need to steer clear of drugs. Those with alcohol and other drug addiction problems will be helped to identify problems and behaviors that are related to their substance abuse. This will often be done in a group setting and occasionally on an individual basis (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008). Group settings are used mainly because many people feel encouraged by the fact that they are not alone in the addiction problem.

Other activities that the substance counsellor will be involved in include assisting family members to cope with the addictions of their spouses, children or siblings. Since health psychology places emphasis on prevention of illness,the substance counsellor will have the responsibility of initiating, planning and conducting programs which are aimed at the prevention of addictions. This will help in the achievement of overall better health since it is often easier to prevent a condition rather than to cure it. The rehabilitation process for drug addicts has been known to be a difficult with many of them falling off the wagon.

Thus a lot of time and patience is required, making prevention the better option. The emphasis on prevention is aimed at reducing the number of patients who will need to use substance abuse programs and also at reducing the rate of relapse. This contributes to decreased stay at the hospital. The child psychologist has a role of helping children to respond to the physician in a positive and cooperative manner at the time when a procedure is being done. This will involves the use of methods that allay the fears and anxieties of the child, such as providing distractions.

The counsellor will also explain to a child who is old enough to understand the nature of the procedure they will undergo and what to expect in language that they can understand. The child counsellor will also have the responsibility of identifying cases of child abuse and other problems in the family that may hinder proper child development (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006). In addition, it is the role of the child psychologist to educate the parent(s) or the guardian of the child on the developmental milestones of the child and to encourage parents to bring their children to hospital if any of these milestones are missed.

At the local school, the child psychologist will continue to observe children for any behavioral, social and personal problems. This will contribute to improvement in child health as it will result in early detection of problems and therefore early management and possibly shorter stays in hospital. The adult psychologist will be preparing adults psychologically for medication by telling the adult patient what to expect. Before surgery, the adult psychologist will visit the adult patient and discover what fears they may have.

The adult psychologist can allay this by explaining the changes that the patient may expect following surgery or after a medical procedure. The adult psychologist can also communicate the patient’s worries and fears to the physician, surgeon and other health professionals directly involved in patient care. This will ensure that the medical professionals allay these fears and are conscious of them as they take care of the patient. This contributes to better healthcare because a less anxious patient is more cooperative and the patient is more likely to have greater adherence to their medication regimen.

Management of chronic pain is a role which will include activities like administration of the McGill Pain Questionnaire to patients. This tool assists in description and measurement of pain (Marks, Murray, Evans et al, 2005). It provides a set of words describing pain from which the patient can choose from. These will assist the doctor to determine the intensity and depth of the pain that the patient feels. The McGill Pain Questionnaire makes diagnosis of pain easier and depending on the type diagnosed the appropriate medication can be prescribed, reducing the patient’s hospital stay.

Another activity that the inpatient only psychologist will be involved in is confirming that a patient is safely using patient administered analgesia. This information can be elicited through conversations with the patient which will reveal their use of the analgesics that they have. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)and biofeedback are other techniques of treating pain amongst inpatients. CBT involves the use of distraction and relaxation techniques (Scott and Briere, 2006). The use of CBT where the patient is advised to note pain relieving and pain aggravating factors also help in the management of pain.

These are useful in managing pain and when the inpatient psychologist has taught these successfully to the patient then it becomes easier for the patient to handle the pain and stick to their medication. The overall effect of these is a shortened hospital stay. The communications counsellor will have a role in educating physicians on the importance of maintaining patient-centered consultations. These consultations as opposed to doctor-centered consultations make the patient to feel as though they are part of the treatment process.

The doctor- centered consultation is perhaps preferred by the elderly but is disliked by most people due to the sense of ignorance that it seems to inspire. A patient-centered consultation focusses on the needs of the patients and allows the doctor to listen to the patient, involve the patient and finally make a diagnosis and choose treatment. Health psychologists believe that treatment that is arrived at like this has a higher chance of being adhered to (Marks et al, 2005). The communications counsellor will therefore make this known to the medical professionals to enhance adherence to medication regimens.

This is important as often the way a patient is handled by the medical professionals influences their adjustment to a condition they have especially when the condition is chronic. Adherence to medication is an indication that the patient is well adjusted and is coping well. Most patients who have suffered traumatic conditions or who have chronic conditions are predisposed to management of stress disorders. Development of a stress disorder in addition to their chronic condition makes their health even worse and increases their period of stay in hospital.

The communications psychologist will identify these patients and plan for and implement interventions that will help to relieve their stress. Some of these interventions include CBT, which can be done individually or in a group. The communications psychologist may also introduce biofeedback. Biofeedback involves the measurement of the functions of a subject such as heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and muscle tension as well as sweat gland activity (Scott and Briere, 2006 ). Often when a patient stress levels are increased these parameters tend to increase.

When measured and an increase is found, the patient’s awareness is raised and the patient then can consciously begin to control the unconscious physiological activities. Adherence to this practice can help patients avoid thoughts and feelings which increase their stress. The communication psychologist will also encourage the patients to verbalize their feelings of anxiety and stress and what they think are the sources of the stress. She/he will then explore with them the things that they can engage in to help take away their stress. These include physical activities, board games, conversations with other patients.

Some stress issues may be related to the family especially where a mother is sick. She may worry about the care of her household and children. To assist this mother, the communications psychologist may need to help the mother work out a plan for care of her household with other family members. Once the stressors have been identified and done away with the patient is more likely to heal faster and be more committed to their treatment regime. The role of the communications psychologist is very important in detecting patients who may go into depression as a result of stress associated with their conditions. Conclusion

Some of the jobs of the health psychologists may seem to overlap. These include the jobs of the inpatient psychologist and the communications psychologist since both seem to be dealing with chronically ill patients. They also seem to have a similar objective in that they want to ensure that the patient adheres to their treatment regimen. There are similarities between both jobs, but the focus of the inpatient psychologist is the patient who requires pain management. Overlap is reduced by the fact that should the patient develop stress as a result of poor pain management then they can be referred to the communication psychologist.

The communication psychologist will then go on to identify the stressor and put in place appropriate interventions. The overlap is not an entirely bad thing as it will result in some of the workload being shared among the psychologists since there is likelihood of patients being more in one psychologist’s speciality. The health psychologists described above will all be working towards improving the care of their patients. Most of the interventions that they will put in place will lead to either decreased hospital stay or greater adherence to medication. This effectively results in improved health among the patients.


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