Health Psychology (In the Primary Care Setting)
Are you stressed from trying to manage a health condition such as chronic pain or injury, cardiovascular disease, gastro-intestinal problems, weight management, or diabetes?
Do you know it’s time to make a change but struggle with confidence and motivation?
Have you had difficulty sleeping for months and feel like you’ve tried everything without any improvement?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you may benefit from working with a health psychologist!
What is Health Psychology?
Health psychology deals with how your mind, behaviors, and culture or environment can impact health, illness, and quality of life. The mind-body connection describes a relationship in which the central nervous system and the body are constantly communicating and are able to influence one another. For example, if a person with type 2 diabetes has a consistently high stress level, it might be more challenging than it normally would be to improve the management of their condition. In another example, if someone with irritable bowel syndrome or other persisting pain experience is unable to find relief, they can become increasingly depressed and have less desire to do the routine activities they once did.
As a health psychologist, I use cognitive, behavioral, and psychophysiological therapies to help you cope better with the stress of a physical illness, change the way you think about your physical health and/or achieve positive behavior change. Often times care will include consultation with your medical care provider. This coordinated team communication provides you with the best possible outcomes as part of whole person health.
Let's talk stigma..
I am passionate about working in the areas of health psychology, lifestyle medicine, and primary care behavior health. I have enjoyed working in healthcare settings as an independent licensed psychologist for the past 13+ years. This is my chosen area of expertise. In addition to supervised training in traditional mental health as a graduate psychology student, I completed 2 years or 3000 hours of pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training in hospitals and clinics. In contrast, the average family medicine residency program provides aspiring medical providers to a 4 week rotation in psychiatry or behavioral health!
It is my observation that many patients are not familiar with the overlap between physical and mental health and don't fully understand how therapy can improve their health. It is my opinion that our healthcare system prescribes more medication (medical and psychiatric) than is necessary to manage conditions that can be improved through use of coping skills and behavior changes. I enjoy working with patients to help them find motivation and develop a plan to directly improve their health and wellness.
In video episodes 1 and 2 of the series, "5 Conversations for Whole Person Health", I discuss specific strategies for managing stress and support health, immune system functioning, and physical/emotional health. This video series was prepared as a project with RiseOC church during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to watch.
Counseling for Chronic Medical Conditions
In my clinical experience, I observe how physical health impacts emotional health, how emotional health impacts physical health, and how our beliefs, behaviors, and motivation are a key part of this two-way relationship. Therapy addresses these different factors through promoting understanding, developing and applying new coping strategies, and encouraging communication with others.
If your medical doctor encourages you to talk with a therapist or psychologist, they are not necessarily suggesting that you are “crazy” or faking your symptoms. We know the human body and brain are complex. You can easily know when you feel down or are in pain, but there are also many body/mind processes that are automatic and hidden. Since there is this mind-body connection, medical doctors and scientific research support a team-based approach to medical and psychological/behavioral care. Just as a cardiologist, physical therapist, or other health care provider offer specialty care, a healthy psychologist can also further improve the management of your medical condition and your quality of life.
Health Behaviors and Lifestyle Changes
Whether you are newly diagnosed or have had your health condition for a long time, behavior change is tough. You may experience feelings such as guilt, shame, anger, denial, nervousness/anxiety, and sadness when you think about having your condition and taking care of your health. Factors such as family member support, expectations, tradition, knowledge, financial limitations, time constraints, and energy can influence your commitment to make healthier choices.
I provide supportive services such as consulting and coordinating with your primary care provider, education regarding medical treatment plan (based on established medical diagnosis and medical provider treatment plan), listening, clarifying, and working with you to find your motivation, develop a behavior change plan, and stay committed to follow through. Including family members during parts of treatment can help to educate and build a supportive connection when discussing your health condition.
Some common health behaviors clients choose to work on with me include:
Common medical conditions I treat as a health psychologist include:
Medical providers I consult with include:
Physical therapists, pharmacists, family practice physicians, internal medicine physicians, social workers, neurologists, speech and language therapists, oncologists, podiatrists, nutritionists, surgeons, and psychiatrists.