Health Psychology at Rutgers is an intradisciplinary program for training Psychology graduate students, who are enrolled in one of the four Psychology Doctoral Programs, in the conduct of research concerning physical health and disease. The emphasis is on theoretically-based empirical research aimed at increasing understanding of the mechanisms underlying the reciprocal relationships linking psychological/behavioral factors to physical health outcomes such as disease, disability, and mortality. The Program is affiliated with The Center for the Study of Health Beliefs and Behavior, which is directed by Howard Leventhal, PhD and funded by the National Institutes of Health. The Center integrates health, cognitive, and social psychology, with medicine, medical sociology, epidemiology and health policy.
Graduate training in Health Psychology covers three broad topic areas:
I. Psychophysiological processes in the initiation and progression of physical diseases
Biological mechanisms that account for disease-related effects of psychological stress, coping, social relationships, and personality. Specific areas of expertise include:
- Autonomic activity and diseases of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
- Stress-related immune changes in the development of infectious disease
- Biobehavioral factors in the genesis and progression of cancer
II. Health-promoting and health-damaging behaviors
Actions and inactions that are linked to social, psychological, and biological mechanisms involved in producing and/or preventing disease. Specific areas of expertise include:
- Prevention/health promotion
- Perception and communication of risk
- Cigarette smoking, alcohol use and abuse, eating and eating disorders, immunization, and behavioral factors in cancer and heart disease
III. Adaptation to physical disease
Cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and social-psychological factors involved in the management of and adaptation to physical disease and its treatment. Specific areas of expertise include:
- Illness cognition, symptom perception, and health-care seeking
- Medical decision-making, patient preferences, physician-patient interactions, adherence
- End-of-life medical treatment decisions
- Adaptation to cancer, heart disease, and their treatment
- Biofeedback, relaxation training, and other stress-management techniques for medical patients
Students are exposed to a contextual, life-span perspective that examines age, cohort, gender, and ethnic/cultural factors to facilitate a deep understanding of psychological/ behavioral processes. The Program prepares students for research and teaching careers in academic and medical settings.
Health Psychology students are enrolled in and complete the requirements of one of the following main areas of graduate study in the Psychology department:
- Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience;
- Clinical Psychology;
- Cognitive Psychology; or
- Social Psychology.
In addition, the Health Program requires completion of additional health-related courses agreed upon by the student and her/his advisor.
In addition to core and contributing faculty, Health Psychology students participate in collaborative research with faculty from several departments/units at Rutgers University and at UMDNJ-RWJMS:
- Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research
- Center for the Study of Health Beliefs and Behavior
- Department of Human Ecology
- Department of Sociology
- Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal and Geriatric Medicine
- The Cancer Institute of New Jersey
- Department of Psychiatry
- Department of Environmental Medicine
- Environmental, Occupational Safety, and Health Institute, a Joint Institute of UMDNJ-RWJMS and Rutgers University.