Why See A Health Psychologist?

When a person has significant issues with their health it can bring many challenges, more than just how it affects their body.  Just like it is often helpful to see a physician who may prescribe a medication or perform a surgery, it can also be helpful to see a psychologist to learn skills to cope more effectively with the changes significant health problems bring.


Lots of people report that by learning to manage their illness more effectively their quality of life gets better.  This means that you can actively work on making your life better by focusing on how you handle the stress of your chronic illness.

What exactly is Health Psychology?

Clinical Health Psychology (also known as behavioral medicine) is a specialty within psychology that focuses on the unique issues that people struggling with physical illness encounter.  Health issues are much more than just a problem with the body. They often affect many areas of someone’s life, such as…

  • Your mood – how happy, sad, anxious or depressed you are
  • Your thoughts – how much you worry or are hopeless about the future
  • Your social life – how much you engage with the people special to you
  • Your work life – how able you are to perform a job

Health Psychology, for the most part, is an evidenced-based type of approach to therapy.  This means that I stay current on the latest research and use techniques that have been shown to work in the scientific literature.

What Is Treatment Like?

As a health psychologist my main goal is to help you manage your health condition and improve your quality of life.  Together, as a team, we figure out how to help you to live better both physically & mentally.

Because no two people are alike, treatment is tailored to the unique situation of each patient.  In general, my work with people tends to be more short-term & focused on specific problems.  Examples of common problems that a health psychologist can help with include :

  • having a hard time following doctor’s recommendations even though you want to
  • worrying so much about symptoms that you aren’t able to work like you used to
  • chronic pain that makes you feel irritable and so you end up pushing away the people that you care about
  • having so much anxiety about symptoms that your relationship suffers or you have given up on dating

We focus on the learning new skills, attitudes & behaviors (because surgery, injections & medications are not the only resources for treating chronic health issues).  With these changes you can be empowered to take a more active role in understanding and addressing your struggles with health.

Another way I can be helpful is by communicating with your other medical providers so that you and your whole medical team are all on the same page.

Who Benefits From This Type of Treatment?

This type of treatment can be particularly helpful for people who are struggling with symptoms of their illness that keep them stuck and not able to live their life the way they would like to.

Here is a list of common problems that health psychology is often effective in addressing:

  • Feeling depressed due to the changes health issues have caused
  • Overwhelming stress & worry about health
  • Feeling alone and without a support system
  • Seeing a physician much more frequently than they would like
  • Feeling overwhelmed about making medical decisions
  • Adjusting to life with a chronic health condition

These are the most common types of health problems people see a health psychologist for:

  • Headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Stress related disorders
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Will my insurance pay for treatment with a health psychologist?

If your insurance has mental health coverage then yes, it will be covered under these benefits.  If you are unsure of what your coverage is you can call the phone number on the back of your insurance card or call us to see if we can help (503.281.4852).

Author: Portland Psychotherapy Team


What Makes Us Unique

Portland Psychotherapy is a clinic, research & training center with a unique business model that funds scientific research. This results in a team of therapists who are exceptionally well-trained and knowledgeable about their areas of specialty.