Health psychologists explore people’s attitudes and awareness towards health. Using specialist knowledge and skills, they promote positive changes in thinking and behaviour in areas such as alcohol or drug misuse.
This page has information on the role of a health psychologist. There is also links to further information.
You’ll be part of a rapidly evolving profession that uses the practice and application of psychology to study behaviour relevant to health, illness and healthcare.
Your focus is on public health problems and how people respond to illness. It is possible that these will have been identified by health professionals such as GPs, nurses and rehabilitation therapists and organisations and employers outside the NHS.
Working directly with individuals or small groups, your work will be far-reaching and may involve:
- identifying behaviours that may damage a person's health eg smoking, drug abuse, poor diet and how psychological theories and interventions can support prevention and health related behaviour change
- encouraging behaviours such as exercise, a healthy diet, oral hygiene, health checks/self-examination and attending preventative medical screenings
- investigating cognitive behaviour to mediate and determine health and illness behaviours. A range of models and frameworks are used, not only to explain and predict behaviour, but also for developing interventions eg changing health beliefs, increasing internal control or self belief
- investigating the nature and effects of communication between health professionals and patients including interventions to improve communication
- looking at the psychological impact of illness on individuals, families and carers
You’ll also use psychological interventions to help self-management of illness and coping with pain or illness. You may also provide information and advice to a range of organisations involved in public health such as the NHS and local authorities.
Where will I work?
Health psychologists work in a number of settings, including
- academic health research units
- local authorities
- university departments.
Want to learn more?
- Find information on the entry requirements for health psychology.
- Find information on training and development in health psychology.
- Pay and conditions Expand / Collapse
Most jobs in the NHS are covered by the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay scales. This pay system covers all staff except doctors, dentists and the most senior managers.
While training, health psychologists can be paid at band 6 and after completing their training, they will be paid at band 7. Psychologists in the NHS will usually work standard hours of 37.5 per week. Terms and conditions can vary for employers outside of the NHS.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
Once you have qualified as a psychologist, there are a wide range of opportunities. You could apply for more senior positions eg head of a psychology service or consultant psychologist. As psychology relies heavily on research, you could contribute to the development of the profession through research work and teaching. You could apply for a trainee high intensity therapist position, enabling you to work under the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies initiative (IAPT).
- Job market and vacancies Expand / Collapse
In February 2017, there were 22,554 practitioner psychologists registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.
There are over nearly 1,6000 health psychologists in the UK.
Most NHS organisations advertise their job and apprenticeship vacancies on NHS Jobs, including those who run NHS services. Some advertise on their own websites. You can find a list of NHS organisations at NHS Choices.
If you're applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS services, you'll be asked to show how you think the values of the NHS Constitution apply in your everyday work. The same will be true if you are applying for a university course funded by the NHS.
- Further information Expand / Collapse