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More Health Psychology!

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by atis, Apr 27, 2007.

  1. atis

    atis Junior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Apr 18, 2006
    Boston, MA
    I'm in the process of getting a masters of public health at the moment and I'd like to continue onto Behavioral Medicine/Health Psychology - I'm interested in a lot of things but stress (from either anxiety disorders or stigma) as it contributes to adverse health outcomes is what I'm specifically interested in (for now).

    I see that there are a lot of paths into this field - either through a clinical psyc phd program with a dedicated health psyc track (like SDSU/UCSD or UPitt for ex.), or through an experimental social psyc. phd program with a health psyc. focus (Ucla or UC Irvine). I even spent some time at a health and psychophys. lab where the P.I. had gotten a social psychology doctorate and then gone on to do a health psychology fellowship. There are even psychiatric epidemiology phd programs out there, but I'm not too interested in these from what I've seen.

    I'm incredibly excited that this field is exploding (as well it should), but I'm going crazy trying to figure out what path to take. What are the forums' thoughts on the subject? What's the "best" way to get into the field and what's going to hold up over time (meaning in twenty years are those with experimental degrees going to be regretting that they didn't go into clinical?)

    I'm interested in the research side of it - I know some health psychologists focus on intervention or counseling to modify health behaviors, and while this is incredibly cool, its not what I'm looking for.

    Thoughts/input/empathy would be much appreciated! Thanks y'all
     
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  3. positivepsych

    positivepsych Member 7+ Year Member

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    Nov 25, 2005
    I would say that you have three options, all equally valid. Since you state that you're intersted in a research career (and not clinical practice), you can pursue any one of them. It kinds of depends on what your specific research interests are (the effects of stress on health are very widely studied).

    You can do a Clinical Ph.D. or Social Ph.D. with a health psych focus. I know lots of people who have done both and gone on to academia with equal success. I think what matters is getting hooked in with a program that supports it (e.g. lets you collaborate with a med school or hospital), and has a solid advisor who specialized in health psych to guide you.

    Also, I would also consider persuing med school and psychiatry. If your interest in behavioral health/medicine has a biological component (you want to study the intricacies of the HPA axis in psychosocial stress), you might get better foundational coursework, training, and resources through that route.

    So in sum, think about what you really want to research, and what kind of training you would really enjoy. There's a lot of potential to do work in this field, and different paths to get there. No one is intrinsically better than the other, just better for your needs and interests.
     
  4. amy203

    amy203 5+ Year Member

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    Oct 16, 2006
    Hi atis - have you checked out this website? I think it might answer a lot of your questions.

    http://www.health-psych.org/education.php

    I have also been reading a lot about the HPA axis lately - it seems to be a growing field of research. A lot of what I have been reading is related to trauma research (so PTSD, for instance), but there seems to be more coming out on the impact of stress on physical health.

    This is a good article that just came out:

    Title If It Goes Up, Must It Come Down? Chronic Stress and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenocortical Axis in Humans

    Author Miller, Gregory; Chen, Edith; Zhou, Eric S

    Source Psychological Bulletin. Vol 133(1), Jan 2007, pp. 25-45
     

  5. At the risk of sounding grumpy, I would argue that all well-done psychology is "health psychology".

    Yes, I understand the distinction for purposes of "specialized training". To answer your question, my opinion is to get a doctorate in clinical psychology and specialize in your training and internship. Your research interest area is rich and unlikely to be exhausted. Good luck.
     
  6. amy203

    amy203 5+ Year Member

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    Oct 16, 2006
    Just curious... would you give the same advice for any sub-specialty? For instance, if a person were interested in neuroscience, would you recommend attending a clinical psych program with a more general focus and then specializing during internship/post-doc?
     
  7. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    I know with Neuro..you pretty much need to go to a place that has a neuro program because to get a neuro internship.....you need solid neuro experience, and the same is true for a neuro post-doc.

    -t
     
  8. I concur. It also depends on your interest. I have met only one person like this, but this person's interest in neuroscience was not satisfied by what neuropsych had in scope. So I would just encourage you to thoroughly research clinical neuroscience, neuropsychology and neurology before striking out. If you haven't already....

    For other things my advice is the same. I have seen a lot of graduates (20ish) of "track" or focused programs who are weak clinically outside a very narrow range of function. Clinical psych is dynamic and demanding. I personally feel that a strong generalist training is important.
     
  9. atis

    atis Junior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Apr 18, 2006
    Boston, MA
    I didn't mean to ruffle your feathers, I meant no harm! I completely agree that clinical psychologists need strong general training and then can choose to specialize later through research and fellowships and whatnot, and that specializing too much too early will likely leave one weak in important areas.

    I was referring specifically to my problem right now, which is trying to figure out if I need a clinical phd for what I want to do. If I want to study etiology and biological mechanisms (for ex. hpa axis) of a disorder in a clinical population (those with anxiety disorders)...do I need a *clinical* degree? If I could, I would love to go the clinical phd route, but I really don't think I'm a strong candidate and its a lot less scary applying for experimental phd programs.

    Eh, maybe the answer is to get over my fears of the clinical PhD application process, but any other advice would be greatly appreciated :p
     
  10. Ollie123

    Ollie123 10+ Year Member

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    Feb 19, 2007
    "Need"? No. Want? Maybe
    What you mention can be studied from a variety of different angles with any number of degrees.
    You can definitely study disordered populations even without a degree in clinical, but it makes it harder to get involved in treatment-focused research for obvious reasons.

    I say go clinical, but I also openly confess to being heavily biased towards clinical:) I looked at some experimental psychopathology programs and very nearly applied to Stanford for it, but I'm glad I landed in a clinical program just because it offers me more flexibility and I can more easily delve into treatment research if I desire.

    Then again you could always go experimental and respec into clinical later if you felt you needed to.

    Its a tough decision, no doubt, and I'm sure others have very good arguments in favor of experimental. Personally, I think having a broad background is of the utmost importance so my vote goes for clinical, but others are free to disagree.

    PS - The process is scary but you can do it:) I never thought I'd make it for awhile but I'm quite happy with how things turned out
     
  11. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    Definitely take some time to figure out where you want to go with your education. I have a strong I/O slant to part of what I want to do....but going for a I/O PhD would not allow me to be licensed and practice as a clinician, so I had to go the other way, and build in more I/O experience as I go along (I already had some coming in)

    -t
     

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