This page is designed to serve two broad purposes:
Web Resources Maintained by Regan A. R. Gurung,
COURSES ON PSYCHOLOGY AND HEALTH
Courses in health psychology are interdisciplinary in their content and their audience. Although the students in these courses are mainly psychology majors, substantial numbers of enrollees come from other disciplines, such as nursing, sociology, physical education, and allied health fields.
In general, health psychology courses examine how biological, psychological, and social factors interact with and affect:
(1) The efforts people make in promoting good health and preventing illness.
(2) The treatment people receive for medical problems.
(3) How effectively people cope with and reduce stress and pain.
(4) The recovery, rehabilitation, and psychosocial adjustment of patients with serious health problems.
Courses also focus on the role of stress in illness; certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking or weight control; and specific chronic illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease.
Typical Course Content
Three broad topics receive particularly strong emphasis in health psychology courses. These topics are:
*Factors underlying health habits and lifestyles
*Methods to enhance health behavior and prevent illness
*Stress and stress management
Other main topics include body systems and psychophysiology, pain and
pain management, people's use of and experience with health services and
hospitals, and the psychosocial impact that living with disabling or life-threatening
illnesses has on patients and their families.
Within these relatively broad content areas, some of the most common
subtopics covered in health psychology courses are:
1.Theories of and methods for controlling pain,
2. Stress and illness,
3. Compliance/adherence with medical regimens,
4. Cardiovascular disease and cancer,
5. Tobacco use,
6. Nutrition and weight control,
7. Illness behavior,
8. Biofeedback and relaxation training,
9. The Type A behavior pattern,
11. Exercise, and
12. Medical settings and the relationships between patients and practitioners.
The great majority of instructors incorporate a variety of theoretical perspectives in their health psychology courses (Sarafino, 1988). Instructors tend to give the greatest emphasis to the behavioral perspective, followed by (in rank order): biological/physiological, cognitive, social, developmental, and psychodynamic perspectives.
The list presented below represents some of the educational objectives
for courses in health psychology. Students completing a comprehensive course
in health psychology are expected to achieve most or all of the following
(1) Develop an understanding and appreciation of the complex interplay between one's physical well-being and a variety of biological, psychological, and social factors.
(2) Learn how psychological research methods, theories, and principles can be applied to enhance biomedical approaches for promoting health and treating illness.
(3) Learn the nature of the stress response and its impact in the etiology and course of many health problems.
(4) Discover how behavioral and cognitive methods can help individuals cope with stress.
(5) Develop skills for designing programs to improve one's own and others' personal health habits and lifestyles.
(6) Acquire an understanding of the difficulty patients experience in deciding whether or when to seek treatment for disturbing symptoms.
(7) Become aware of the experiences of patients in the hospital setting, factors that affect adherence to medical regimens, and sources of problems in patient/practitioner relationships.
(8) Determine how psychological and medical methods for relieving pain differ and are often combined to enhance treatment effectiveness.
(9) Become aware of the impact that disabling or life-threatening illnesses have on patients and their families.
(10) Discover how psychological methods and principles can be applied to help patients manage and cope with chronic illness.
Many of the respondents to our original survey who have taught the health
psychology course at least twice volunteered to have their names listed
as mentors who could be contacted to give advice to new instructors in
the field. These mentors are (listed alphabetically):
Karen Anderson (Dept. of Psychology, Santa Clara U., Santa Clara, CA 95053)
George Bigelow (Dept. of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins U., Key Medical Center, Baltimore, MD 21224)
Linda Brannon (Dept. of Psychology and Special Education, McNeese State U., Lake Charles, LA 70609)
Robert Brubaker (Dept. of Psychology, Eastern Kentucky U., Richmond, KY 40475)
Christine Dunkel-Schetter (Dept. of Psychology, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90024)
George Everly (Dept. of Psychology, Loyola College, 4501 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21210)
Howard Friedman (Dept. of Psychology, U. of California at Reverside, Riverside, CA 92521)
Howard Fine, FCE Psychology Department, Birkbeck
College, University of London, 26 Russell Square, LONDON. WC1B 5DQ
Peter Galvani (Dept. of Psychology, SUNY College at Brockport, Brockport,
Sergio Guglielmi (Dept. of Psychology, Gilmer Hall, U. of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903)
Regan A. R. Gurung (Human Development and Psychololgy, UW-GB), firstname.lastname@example.org
Carl Johnson (Dept. of Psychology, Central Michigan U., Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859)
Charles Kaiser (Dept. of Psychology, College of Charleston, 66 George St., Charleston, SC 29424)
Antonio Puente (Dept. of Psychology, U. of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, NC 28406)
Tracey A. Revenson (Psychology CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10016-4039) TRevenson@gc.cuny.edu
Edward Sarafino (Dept. of Psychology, The College of New Jersey, P.O. Box 7718, 2000 Pennington Road, Ewing, NJ08 628-0718)
Larry Stevens, Ph.D. (Department of Psychology, NAU Box 15106, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011) (928) 523-6530 [Larry.Stevens@NAU.EDU]
Mervyn Wagner (Dept. of Psychology, U. of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208)
Edward Whitson (Dept. of Psychology, SUNY College at Geneseo, Geneseo, NY 14454)
Josephine Wilson (Dept. of Psychology, Wittenberg U., Springfield, OH 45501)
Thomas Wrobel (Dept. of Psychology, U. of Michigan at Flint, Flint, MI 48502)
If you would like to be added or removed from this list, please email
Regan A. R. Gurung, Ph.D. at email@example.com
PowerPoint Lecture Aids
Self-efficacy and on health behavior change Ralf Schwarzer's website
Regan A. R. Gurung
(1) Pamphlets--The U.S. Government Printing Office and organizations
concerned with specific health problems, such as the American Cancer Society
and the American Heart Association, publish and distribute health-related
(2) Journals specializing in psychology and health--e.g., Annals of Behavioral Medicine and Journal of Behavioral Medicine, Health Psychology, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Psychology and Health, and Psychosomatic Medicine.
(3) Edited volumes published periodically--e.g., Annual Review of Psychology, Annual Review of Public Health, Handbook of Psychology and Health (Erlbaum), and Progress in Behavior Modification (Sage).
(4) Other major reference books can be readily selected by reviewing the catalogs of publishers with extensive lists in health psychology. These publishers include Erlbaum, Guilford, Jossey-Bass, Pergamon, Plenum, and Wiley.
Field Trips and Field Work
Field experiences provide valuable avenues for enriching health psychology courses. Visits can be arranged to local hospitals or nursing homes, and to pain clinics where students can observe techniques of biofeedback and psychophysiological assessment. Students can also do volunteer field work in hospitals and other health care settings as an option or requirement of the course.
Enrichment possibilities through the use of guest speakers are quite wide ranging in the field of health psychology. Speakers might include: (1) practitioners or researchers who are experts on specific illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, or kidney disease; (2) health care or rehabilitation specialists, such as nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and medical social workers; (3) clinical health psychologists who help patients cope with chronic or terminal illnesses; (4) hospice workers; (5) public health workers involved in community health-promotion programs; (6) individuals who work in AIDS prevention and treatment programs; (7) representatives of a local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving; and (8) individuals with knowledge of health care systems and needs in other societies.
Online Medical journals
Classroom Exercises and Demonstrations
The material in health psychology lends itself to a wide variety of educational classroom activities. (Note: Instructors' names in parentheses acknowledge those who provided each enrichment description. See the Acknowledgments section for full names and affiliations. In some cases, the description was brief enough to be quoted either in part or in its entirety.)
Conduct a demonstration of relaxation training for stress management, having the students do muscle relaxation and slow breathing exercises (Bigelow; Galvani; Liston).
Administer, score, and critique any of a variety of psychological tests, such as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, Jenkins Activity Survey, Millon Behavioral Health Inventory, or Multidimensional Health Locus of Control Scales (Brannon; Guglielmi; Sarafino; Whitson)
Have students bring in newspaper articles that describe the findings of research related to health psychology. Discuss how the research was conducted, or how it was probably conducted if the methodology is unclear (Friedman; Sarafino)
Nutrition/diet worksheet (Leslie Martin): A good in-class activity to go along with the discussion of nontasters/ tasters/supertasters and the orosensory properties of dietary fat is to bring in a few items (preferably in full-fat, low-fat, and non-fat versions) to see if students can tell the difference. Martin uses this worksheet so students can sample from the labeled dishes on the table and then we go over the "answers." It's interesting to note that some students are quite good at identifying the differences and others are quite poor at this task. This leads into a discussion of various factors that prompt our eating behaviors and how personal variables (such as ability to differentiate fat from other tastes/textures, operant conditioning, social environment, etc.) are relevant to any intervention one might hope to make.
Have a CPR trainer demonstrate the resuscitation technique (Sarafino).
Construct a list of medical jargon (e.g., incubation period, sutures, secretions, sucrose, umbilicus, membrane, purgative, antitoxin, aseptic, myocardium, paresis, pleura, thrombus, vasoconstriction, hepatic, fallopian tubes, ectoderm, endometrium, congenital, and primipara) and have the students define the terms. Discuss what the terms mean and how using jargon can impair the patient/practitioner relationship and the patient's likelihood of adhering to a medical regimen (Friedman; Sarafino).
Demonstrate "frontalis muscle tension measurement as an index of stress and as a biofeedback procedure. Using a small portable EMG biofeedback/monitor device, a volunteer is hooked up and given the opportunity to control his/her forehead muscle tension with the audible signal turned on for all to hear. After relaxing, the student is given the task of counting backwards from 100 by 13s (i.e., successively subtracting 13 from the previous number answer). The class is greatly entertained by the increased EMG signal produced by this seemingly simple task" (Bigelow).
Demonstrate how to collect psychophysiological data for heart rate, blood pressure, and GSR (Liston; Wilson).
Our survey respondents provided many descriptions of projects they have their students do as part of the course requirements. These projects were quite varied and included papers, book reports, and self-modification activities. (Note: Instructors' names in parentheses acknowledge the respondents who provided the enrichment description. In some cases, the description was brief enough to be quoted either in part or in its entirety.)
Term Paper (Bigelow; Galvani). Galvani's description noted that the "paper is expected to be a scholarly research paper. You will present a well-organized exposition of some particular topic. . . based upon a careful study of existing data or ideas. . . . The term paper should be 10-15 typewritten pages. . . . [and] should contain, in the following order: (1) a title page, (2) an introduction to the topic/issue/problem which explicitly relates to the topic of behavioral medicine, (3) a survey of the literature, (4) a summary and conclusions, (5) a list of footnotes, and (6) a reference list."|
SAMPLE PAPER ASSIGNMENTS/PROJECTS
Class Project Paper Christyn Dolbier
Behavior Change Regan A. R. Gurung (Modified from Dunkel-Schetter).
Behavior Change Edward Sarafino
Class Paper Linking Topics in Health Psychology Leslie Martin
Stress and Coping exercises and others Anne Bowen
Rating the Effectiveness of Behavior Change/Health Promotion Messages Lachlan McWilliams
Journal Article Summaries (Brubaker; Tucker). Brubaker noted that the students are to "read and summarize five articles in journals selected from the list attached to this syllabus. The articles should be related to topics covered in the textbook or lectures. Each summary should be no longer than two or three pages and must be typed (double spaced). You must include the reference citation. These summaries must be written in your own words."
Empirical Research (Sarafino). "The instructor will present an array
of potential research topics, and the students will divide up into large
groups on the basis of their interest in the topics. Each group will meet
with the instructor to design an empirical study. Most of the students
will engage in collecting the data, and the remaining students will do
statistical analyses. Each student will write an individual research report,
following APA style."
Book Report (Barker; Dunkel-Schetter; Hanson). Barker's approach allows students very wide latitude in selecting a book to critique, but the book must relate to health psychology and be approved by the instructor. Hanson allows students to select a book from a list, and the report "must include student reactions to the book, indicating thought and application to one's everyday life. For example, what special meaning or message does this book have for you? How does it relate to your life or to those around you? Are there universal truths in it? What did you agree or disagree with?" And Dunkel-Schetter has students write "a review or commentary" on their choice of "one of four novels to read for the course. Each is a true story about an individual's experiences in providing or receiving medical care. The four choices are: Gentle Vengeance by C. LeBaron, Heartsounds by M. Weinman Lear, The House of God by S. Shem, or Code Blue by B. Huttman."
Oral Presentation (Anderson). Students are "required to make a group
presentation in class on some health behavior that you practice in your
own life, or some health issue you are particularly interested in. Topics
might include relaxation techniques, exercise plans, specific dietary habits,
and so on. . . . You should present some research or historical background,
information on how that behavior affects your own life, and the benefits/drawbacks
to that behavior. . . . Each student will also be required to write a short
(5-7 pages) paper summarizing the relevant issues and findings" discussed
in his/her group's presentation.
Health Profile (Brannon). Students are to use information from the
text to "build a 'Personal Health Profile.' At the end of the course, each
student has a profile that he or she can use to decide about personal behavior
and potential changes relating to health. . . . In constructing their profiles,
students must make recommendations for personal changes. These changes
must be backed by research citations in order to force students to attend
to research-based advice rather than popular, media-based advice concerning
behavior and health."
Self-Modification (Wagner; Wrobel). Wrobel has students engage in "the modification of a health-related behavior. . . . either a problem to decrease or a behavior to increase. Periodically during the course the students are asked to report on their projects, with a slightly more formal presentation at the end." Wagner gives examples of behaviors students might want to change and describes the structure of the project and the report: "Sample behaviors appropriate for projects might be: excessive eating, inappropriate eating, smoking, exercise, boozing, stress reduction, etc. . . . There are two phases of the project: (a) a baseline phase and (b) a modification phase. During the baseline phase, which lasts one week, you merely observe, record and keep a chart on the occurrence of the target behavior. This is to get an assessment of its frequency, form and the effects of observation. . . . During the modification phase, which will last approximately three weeks, the principles of behavior will be applied to modify your target behavior." The written report includes four sections: an introduction, program description, results, and discussion.
Do you have a resource, classroom demonstration, course syllabus, textbook suggestion, or any other information that you would like to share with other teachers of psychology? Your contributions, suggestions for the development of this page, and comments are welcome. Please email Regan A. R. Gurung, Ph.D. at firstname.lastname@example.org
A variety of sources were used to create this site. Primary sources included a survey conducted by Div. 38's Committee on Education and Training and two articles that reported data from large-scale surveys:
The Div. 38 survey. The committee surveyed about 60 instructors whom we knew have taught undergraduate courses on psychology and health. We asked them to send "official" departmental course outlines, syllabi, and materials describing enrichments they have used for these courses. About 40% of the faculty surveyed responded.
Dorsel, T. N., & Baum, A. (1991). Undergraduate health psychology: Another challenge for an ambitious field. Psychology and Health.
Sarafino, E. P. (1988). Undergraduate health psychology courses. Health Psychologist, 10(3), 2.
The Committee on Education and Training extend our thanks to all instructors who took their time to submit the materials we used. All of the materials we received were used in some way. We commend in particular the creativity and care these instructors employed in designing the classroom exercises and demonstrations and the projects they use in their courses. The descriptions of these features will surely be of great help in enriching the health psychology courses of other instructors.
The following instructors sent materials in response to our survey:
Karen Anderson (Santa Clara U.), Lewis Barker (Baylor U.), George Bigelow
(Johns Hopkins U.), Linda Brannon (McNeese State U.), Robert Brubaker (Eastern
Kentucky U.), Christine Dunkel-Schetter (UCLA), George Everly (Loyola College
& Johns Hopkins U.), Howard Friedman (U. of California at Riverside),
Peter Galvani (SUNY at Brockport), Sergio Guglielmi (U. of Virginia), David
Hanson (James Madison U.), Carl Johnson (Central Michigan U.), Charles
Kaiser (College of Charleston), Hattye Liston (North Carolina A & T
State University), Nancy Norvell (U. of South Florida), Mary Ellen Olbrisch
(Medical College of Virginia), Ann O'Leary (Rutgers U.), Antonio Puente
(U. of North Carolina at Wilmington), Edward Sarafino (Trenton State College),
Diane Tucker (U. of Alabama at Birmingham), Mervyn Wagner (U. of South
Carolina), Edward Whitson (SUNY at Geneseo), Josephine Wilson (Wittenberg
U.), Thomas Wrobel (U. of Michigan at Flint).