Heart and Soul

Interviews Ronald Levant, dean of the Center for Psychological Studies at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, about clinical clinical health psychology. Relationship between psychology and medicine; How psychology would be worked into the normal caregiving routine.

By PT Staff, published January 1, 1999 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

The next time you visit a hospital seeking relief from asthma or chronic pain, you may be treated by a shrink, not a physician. Because behavior has become a key predictor of our physical well-being, the field of health psychology, or how to prevent and treat illness through psychological intervention, is increasingly becoming a component of the hospital scene. One proponent of the trend, Ronald Levant, Ed.D., dean of the Center for Psychological Studies at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, recently spoke to PT about the new discipline.

What is Clinical Health Psychology?

Clinical Health Psychology (CHP) was approved as a specialty by the American Psychological Association in 1997. It promotes study of the interaction between psychology and serious illness, disease prevention, physical rehabilitation and the general upkeep of good health.

How are psychology and medicine linked?

Seven of the nine major causes of death--including tobacco use, alcohol abuse and poor diet--stem from behavior. Between 50 and 70% of all visits to physicians are for problems rooted m psychology And mounting evidence proves that psychological intervention can be useful in treating a wide range of problems, from AIDS and asthma to obesity and osteoporosis.

How would psychology be worked into the normal caregiving routine?

I envision a day when psychologists will work alongside doctors and nurses, and patients will be triaged to see who should do their workup based on the likelihood that their problems are mental or medical. Psychologists should at least be part of the primary health care team.

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