A medical provider is focused on fixing or treating your medical condition. A health psychologist is focused on helping you live better while you wait.
What is the difference between a medical provider and a health psychologist?
Medical providers (as brilliant as many of them are) have a very narrow focus. When you see a medical provider, they are focused on your “main complaint.” Your bursitis. Your torn ACL. Your lower back. Your anxiety. Your depression. Your high blood pressure.
A health psychologist is focused on everything else about you. You’re not your bursitis, your lower back pain, your knee, your depression, your panic attacks–you are not your symptoms. You are a whole person. You have hopes, values, relationships, family, work, hobbies.
A health psychologist looks at how you’re living your life, how your physical and emotional struggles have been impacting your job, your family relationships, your finances, your sleep, your sex life, and literally everything else that is part of being a whole functioning human being.
A medical provider is focused on fixing or treating your medical condition. A health psychologist is focused on helping you pick up the pieces of your old life that fell apart after your accident, your loss, that traumatic event, that terrible time in your life. A health psychologist focuses on helping you build something new.
What kind of training does a health psychologist have?
Health psychologists in the United States have a doctorate in clinical psychology. In other countries, their degrees might be different.
In the US, a clinical psychologist has four to six years of graduate training and supervision in clinical work and research. They have a doctoral degree (a PhD or a PsyD) and are licensed by their state boards to practice psychology.
They usually have spent an enormous amount of time working in hospitals and medical clinics, and specialize in bridging the gap between patients and medical doctors.
In addition to providing counseling and therapy, most health psychologists also conduct assessments. This can include things like assessments for implantable devices (like spinal cord stimulators), organ transplants, weight loss surgery interventions, and other assessments to evaluate depression, anxiety, personality, and cognitive problems like dementia and Alzheimer's.