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Health Psychology

by American University

This course material is only available in the iTunes U app on iPhone or iPad.

Course Description

Welcome to Health Psychology!

... and an important notice: this course site is provided for the convenience of my students at American University in Washington, DC. Anyone else who wishes to use it for self-education is invited to do so. Please understand, however, that these educational resources do not constitute a course without concurrent registration for this course at American U. I cannot give credit or indicate any equivalency of education outside of my role as a professor at American University. 'hoping you understand.

Now that that's covered....

This course enmeshes you in the theory of, techniques for, and research on how psychology can help people (including you!) live longer, healthier lives.

We begin by exploring the causes of sickness and premature death in contemporary societies. After noting the major sources of morbidity and mortality in the world, and in the U.S. in particular, relationships between personality, health, and the development of health problems are detailed. Theory and research on relationships between the stress, the immune system, and health are covered as well.

Facilitation of traditional medical services with psychological techniques is the next focus of the course. Several classes detail methods which psychological researchers and care providers have developed and used to help people: (a) seek professional services before a health problem becomes critical, (b) not use health services they do not need, (c) follow the advice of physicians and other health service providers, to minimize more serious and expensive medical services, and (d) prepare for, cope with, and adjust to the results of medical interventions such as surgery.

As we delve deeper into the sort of medical services that psychology can facilitate, you will gain an increased understanding and appreciation for the cost and suffering involved in the medical treatment of health problems. Investigation of psychological alternatives to medical methods of dealing with, for example, chronic pain and sleep disorders, makes even clearer what most of us prefer to ignore: health problems produce a terrible, frightening loss of human dignity and years of productive living. This realization is the best argument ever for the prevention of these medical problems--which is where psychology has the greatest potential to free people from debilitating illness and premature death.

There are, of course, uncertainties about the effectiveness of current psychological theory and methods for changing some of the most life-threatening behaviors of all. The research described throughout this course acknowledges this uncertainty while showing how we can quantify it and reduce it through repeated cycles of investigation, theorization, and practice. There is real and demonstrated promise here for reductions in unnecessary illness and in premature deaths. Join me in seeking answers to questions that are deeply and personally important for us as individuals, for our society, and for our world.
Health Psychology
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