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by Lee M. Cohen, Dennis E. McChargue and Frank L. Collins Jr. (Editors)
Sage Publications, 2003
Review by Yvonne Melia on Aug 2nd 2004
Health Psychology Handbook
is a reference text primarily aimed at Health Psychologists working in the area
of behavioral medicine. The text is divided into four sections. The first of
these deals with practical issues and provides an overview of the unique skills
involved in practicing health psychology and the challenges of working in
medical contexts. Practice and psychological assessment screening in medical
settings, working within a multidisciplinary team, and commonly used
interventions (e.g. motivational interviewing, brief psychotherapies, group treatments)
are covered here.
II addresses those behaviors that may compromise overall health status.
Alcohol problems, nicotine dependence, obesity and body image disturbance,
physical inactivity and chronic disease, stress, inappropriate medication-seeking
behavior and adherence to medical recommendations are addressed.
III goes on to review the practice of clinical health psychology in relation to
specific medical problems, including chronic pain, hypertension, coronary heart
disease, diabetes, oncology, sexual dysfunctions, HIV, irritable bowel syndrome
and sleep disorders.
Part IV examines special issues, including ethics, working with specific
populations (e.g. women, older adults, ethnocultural diversity), research in
medical settings and evaluating outcomes. Issues pertinent to the future
progression of the field are also touched on, for instance, what health
psychology could bring to public health and how this transition to the public
health arena could be achieved, in terms of building on Health Psychologists
existing skills and gaps in training.
A key feature of the Handbook is the attention it gives to
evidence-based practice. Clearly this has merit, and is in keeping with the
scientist practitioner approach to clinical psychology. However, this
attention meant that some chapters appeared to have more of a flavor of a
literature review than of a practical resource that clinicians could use and
apply in their work. Much more useful were those chapters, such as the one on
sleep disorders which provided succinct summaries of treatment approaches and
included useful examples and suggestions for how these could be applied in
clinical practice. Whilst the text did include some chapters on working with
special populations, in general, the evidence base was reviewed as though the
demographics of participants across research studies were homogeneous. For
instance, the absence of information about working with children with medical
problems was conspicuous.
must allude to the Foreword to the Handbook by Cynthia Belar however and
the reference she makes to the youth of the formalized practice of health
psychology in the US, being only 25 years old in 2003. Belar
also refers to the previous dearth of available practical resources for Health
Psychologists. Clearly, despite minor shortcomings, the Health Psychology
Handbook represents a useful addition to the body of published practical advice
available for Health Psychologists. The text is a
useful reference for Health Psychologists in training through to experienced
practitioners. It sets out the nature of key health problems encountered by
Health Psychologists in their clinical practice, defines related psychological
concepts, and addresses assessment and measurement issues and interventions
(both individual and group). Each chapter concludes with a useful case study
to illustrate how the concepts addressed in the chapter work in practice.
Whilst the text is US-focused, it clearly would provide a useful contribution
to practitioners working in the UK,
given the early stage formalized practice of health psychology is at here.
© 2004 Yvonne Melia
writes about herself:
I am presently employed as an Assistant
Psychologist in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services at Gulson Clinic,
Coventry, UK, and commence my doctoral training in clinical psychology in the