Briefing Series on the Role of Psychology in Health Care

Psychology, as the science of behavior, has much to offer to enhance health promotion and disease prevention and address health disparities. Based on scientific evidence, this health briefing series focuses on a wide range of health conditions to further highlight psychology’s vital roles, including and beyond assessment and treatment, in primary care and other health care settings.

This health briefing series is collaboratively developed with APA’s Interdivisional Healthcare Committee, a coalition of health-oriented divisions within the association.

Role of Psychology in...

Interprofessional Care
  • Integrated Health Care (PDF, 100KB)
    Reliance on integrated, interprofessional health care teams, which include psychologists, enables our evolving health care system to address the physical, psychological and social aspects of health.
  • Primary Care (PDF, 104KB)
    Psychologists provide vital mental and behavioral health services in primary care; they identify and modify behaviors to promote the health and wellness of individuals across the lifespan.
Alzheimer's Disease
  • Alzheimer's Disease (PDF, 1.3MB)
    Cognitive testing and neuropsychological evaluation by psychologists with specialized training and expertise are the most effective ways to differentiate dementia from normal age-related cognitive changes and those related to depression and/or other mental disorders.
  • Pediatric Cancer (PDF, 89KB)
    Psychologists are able to identify adjustment difficulties; provide effective psychological interventions for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms; and promote effective problem-solving for child cancer patients and their families in treatment and during survivorship.
  • Adult Cancer (PDF, 99KB)
    Psychologists are the leading researchers developing evidence-based psychological treatments for cancer patients and have specialized training in assessing, monitoring and treating residual neurocognitive impairments.
  • Breast Cancer (PDF, 90KB)
    Psychologists can utilize diagnostic measures and interviewing techniques to assess psychosocial distress and body image concerns.
  • Colorectal Cancer (PDF, 188KB)
    Psychological interventions (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation training, group therapy) can reduce psychological distress and improve self-esteem, optimism, social functioning and self-efficacy of colorectal cancer patients.
Cardiac Health
  • Heart Disease and Depression (PDF, 142KB)
    The benefits of psychotherapy for reducing many of the risk factors leading to heart disease are well established.
Liver Transplantation
  • Liver Transplantation (PDF, 150KB)
    A psychologist on a health care team can help improve outcomes when involved in both pre-transplant assessment and care as well as post-transplant care. 
  • Childhood and Adolescent Obesity (PDF, 1MB)
    Psychologists play an integral role in areas of assessment relevant for obese youth, including enhancing physical activity, child and parent motivation and ability to implement lifestyle behavior changes, and social and emotional functioning.
  • Adult Obesity (PDF, 92KB)
    Psychologists have the knowledge and training to assist with the prevention of weight problems, adherence to weight-loss programs, and maintenance of healthy weight and lifestyle, which are greatly needed to address the current obesity epidemic.
Pain Management
  • Chronic Pain (PDF, 91KB)
    Psychological interventions, such as cognitive behavioral and self-regulatory therapies, have been shown to be safe, effective and cost-effective treatments for pain.
Perinatal Depression
  • Perinatal Depression (PDF, 142KB)
    Recent guidelines discourage pharmacological treatment of depression in pregnant and lactating women in favor of psychotherapeutic intervention.
Pressure Ulcers
  • Pressure Ulcers (PDF, 82KB)
    A psychologist on a health care team can implement behavioral interventions for patients at risk of pressure ulcers, saving them from lengthy and costlier hospital stays.
Presurgical Conditions
Pediatric Sleep Disorders
  • Pediatric Sleep Disorders (PDF, 157KB)
    On a healthcare team, a psychologist can evaluate pediatric behavioral sleep disorders and co-occurring cognitive disorders as well as implement interventions to address these conditions.