Clinical health psychology is concerned with the contributions that psychologists can make to understanding health and illness, frequently in collaboration with other health professionals, including physicians, nurses among others. It involves the development of theory, research, and intervention directed toward prevention, treatment, and management of physical disease and disability, as well as the promotion of health. Because factors at the level of the individual, group, and larger social system influence health, issues pertinent to improving the health care system and health policy are relevant to clinical health psychology. Individuals who specialize in clinical health psychology typically obtain professional positions that involve some combination of conducting research, providing services, serving as administrators, and teaching. Clinical health psychologists work in a variety of settings, including medical schools and centers, universities, hospitals, medical clinics, private or group practice, and government.
The track in clinical health psychology at the University of Kansas is designed to be completed in conjunction with the requirements for the APA-accredited clinical program. A number of faculty members, located within the Department of Psychology and other departments at the Lawrence campus and the University of Kansas Medical Center, provide the teaching and supervisory support for the specialty. A unique facet of the specialty is its practicum in clinical health psychology, conducted during the third program year at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Additional coursework is also available through the Department of Preventive Medicine and its Masters program in public health at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Students in the Clinical Health Track complete all the requirements of KU's general clinical program. The Clinical Health Track also requires nine graduate credit hours over and above those required by the clinical program and six hours of electives that are relevant to the track. In addition to these differences, the Clinical HealthTrack requires that two semesters of advanced clinical practicum that occur on health teams via the KU Medical Center. Additionally, students' thesis and dissertation topics should be relevant to the health area, and students' internships should provide training in behavioral medicine or health/rehabilitation psychology.
KU Medical Center Health Psychology Practica
- Behavioral Pediatrics Clinic: Student therapists work with a pediatric psychologist to deliver short-term, cognitive-behavioral treatment to children and adolescents (with or without chronic disease) who present with internalizing disorders (depression, anxiety, anger, etc.), externalizing disorders (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder, etc.), and chronic disease-related adjustment problems (nonadherence to medical regimens, pain, and coping difficulties). Physicians, other therapists, parents or teachers refer patients for treatment.
- Inpatient Pediatric Consultation Service: Student therapists, in conjunction with a pediatric psychologist, respond to consults from the general pediatric or subspecialty inpatient services including the Pediatric Intensive Unit and the Burn Unit. Student therapists assess and provide recommendations for children and adolescents who are having behavioral or adjustment difficulties and also provide the patient's family with support and education. In addition, student therapists may be called upon to provide advice and support to the nursing or medical staff. Inpatient consultations are directly multidisciplinary in that we are part of the medical and nursing team that is treating the child and we have frequent interactions with the staff.
- Outpatient Pediatric Subspecialty Clinics: The outpatient clinic also responds to consults by subspecialty clinics (rheumatology, oncology, endocrinology, etc.). Student therapists work with their supervisor to assess and make recommendations about needed psychological services. Patients who need more extensive services are usually scheduled in the Pediatric Psychology clinic.
- Telemedicine Outreach Clinic: The telemedicine clinic uses televideo technology to reach families in rural areas of Kansas. Student therapists deliver the same behavioral pediatrics evaluation and treatment services described above. Children present with internalizing and externalizing concerns, and parents seek child management strategies and assistance with coping with loss. In addition to working with the child and parent/guardian, therapists work closely with school faculty and other community resources to implement recommendations.
- Rehabilitation Psychology Outpatient Clinic: Student therapists work with a licensed neuropsychologist and psychometrist to conduct neuropsychological evaluations of adults and children with physical and cognitive disabilities (e.g., stroke, brain injury, other neurological diagnoses, and/or psychiatric diagnoses).
- Rehabilitation Psychology Inpatient Consult Service: Student therapists work with a rehabilitation psychologist to provide neuropsychology and rehabilitation psychology services (assessment, psychotherapy, individual and group therapy) to adults with diverse diagnoses, including traumatic and non-traumatic brain and spinal cord injury, and other medical conditions requiring rehabilitation services. In addition, the student therapist and rehabilitation psychologist respond to consultations from trauma, burn, medicine, and surgery services within the medical center.
KUMC Pain Management Service:
- Inpatient Consults: Student therapists are supervised by a psychologist specializing in pain management to address the needs of inpatients who are experiencing problems with psychosocial adjustment and pain problems secondary to medical illnesses. Students work with their supervisor to devise and deliver brief interventions. Opportunities for outpatient follow-up may be available.
- Outpatient Consults: Student therapists also see outpatients referred for assistance with pain management, gastrointestinal disorders, and adjustment to cancer. Student therapists often follow these patients for a series of sessions, acting as their primary therapist.