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Medical psychology (also known as Clinical Health Psychology, Psychosomatic Medicine, Health Care Psychology, Behavioral Medicine, or Health Psychology) revolves around the idea that both the body and mind are one, indivisible structure. Continuing with this line of thought, all diseases whether of the mind or of the physical body must be treated as if they have both been effected.
This belief that the corporeal and the physical bodies are one is by no means new. Socrates introduced the Greeks to this idea in several of his works, however for a time in the Early Modern period, it was lost to René Descartes' (also known as Cartesian) belief of the two separate bodies. Only recently has this arcane thoguht been reintroduced into medical schools across the world.
The intent of Medical Psychology is to apply knowledge from all branches of psychology and medicine in the prevention, assessment, and treatment of all forms of physical diseases. Medical psychology asserts its main function in the determination of personality styles of coping and the examination of attitudes of an individual in response to subjective and objective stressors. Medical psychologists also help in the determination of genetic, biochemical, and physiologic factors in illnesses and reaction to illness. These, then, are joined with psychosocial factors deemed contributory to diseases processes. Specific behavioral methods are then used to help the person match coping and management skills to the person’s abilities, character, and personality style.
Some doctors and philosophers today believe that this Cartesian line of thought is outdated. Some anecdotal evidence has been raised concerning the lack of effective treatment for things such as migraines, pains and cancer and that perhaps the cure should not only be centred on the body but also the mind. Some also raise the argument that most uncurable diseases are brought about not merely by physical ailments, but by mental problems. All evidence is of course unproven and will likely remain as such for a long time to come.
The contribution of medical psychologists to general health care increased with their use as primary care doctors in the world's largest HMO, the California Kaiser Permanente. These psychologists work along with primary care physicians in order to determine optimum treatment plans for all patients with physical and/or mental illnesses.
An important contribution of medical psychology is in the education of patients (psychoeducation ) in disease processes. Frequently, such education of the patient and the family insures substantially better compliance with treatment recommendations by physicians. Medical psychologists are particularly successful in the treatment of asthma, gastrointestinal illnesses, cardiac conditions, spinal cord and brain injuries, chronic pain, headaches, and addictions (drugs, smoking, eating, alcohol, etc.).
Training in medical psychology entails a doctoral degree (Ph.D., or Psy.D.) in clinical psychology, an internship, and postdoctoral training in one of the branches of medicine traditionally associated with psychological fields: psychosomatic medicine , rehabilitation, neuropsychology (central nervous system functioning - brain functions), substance abuse, pain medicine, among others.
- Medical Psychology Graduate Program at The University of Alabama at Birmingham
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