Health psychologist


Health psychologists deal with the various aspects of health related behaviour of individuals and groups, by helping individuals or groups prevent illness and promote healthy behaviours by also providing counseling services. They perform tasks for the development of health promotion activities and projects on the basis of psychological science, research findings, theories, methods and techniques. They also engage in research about health related issues to influence public policy on health care issues.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to health psychologist:

specialist healthcare psychologist
health psychology researcher
expert healthcare psychologist
consultant in health psychology
healthcare psychologist
practitioner of healthcare psychology
research health psychologist
consultant health psychologist

Minimum qualifications

Doctoral or equivalent level is generally required to work as health psychologist. However, this requirement may differ in some countries.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Health psychologist is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Health psychologist career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to health psychologist.

clinical psychologist
specialist biomedical scientist
specialist pharmacist

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of health psychologist. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of health psychologist with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of health psychologist.

Clinical reports: The methods, assessment practices, credentials and opinions gathering procedures necessary for writing clinical reports.
Counselling methods: Counselling techniques used in different settings and with various groups and individuals, especially concerning methods of supervision and mediation in the counselling process.
Psychological diagnostics: The psychological diagnostics strategies, methods and techniques concerning health-related experiences and behaviours as well as mental disorders
Health care occupation-specific ethics: The moral standards and procedures, ethical questions and obligations specific to occupations in a health care setting such as respect for human dignity, self-determination, informed consent and patient confidentiality.
Consultation: The theories, methods and concepts related to consultation and communication with clients.
Psychological counselling methods: The various psychological counselling, training and coaching methods for persons of all ages, groups and organizations considering medical aspects.
Neurology: Neurology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
Psychopharmacology: The awareness of various effects that medicines have on the patient or client’s behaviour, mood and thinking.
Emergency psychology: The methods used for coping with trauma or disasters.
Health psychology: The development, implementations and evaluation of health psychological concepts.
Crisis intervention: Coping strategies in crisis cases which allow individuals to overcome their problems or fears and avoid psychological distress and breakdown.
Therapy in health care: The principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions.
Evaluation of psychological performance: The characteristics of the methods used to assess psychological parameters.
Conditions for professional practice of health psychology: The institutional, legal and psychosocial conditions for professional practice of health psychology with the aim to apply them in the exercise of the psychological profession in health care.
Psychological interventions: The characteristics of the methods and procedures meant to instigate change in human behaviour.
Psychology: The human behaviour and performance with individual differences in ability, personality, interests, learning, and motivation.
Psychopathology: The criteria of psychiatric diagnoses, the use of the disease classification system, and the theories of psychopathology. The indicators of functional and organic disorders and the types of psychopharmacological medications.
Psychological treatment measures: The psychological treatment measures for persons of all ages and groups, with the aim of improving treatment skills and the provisions of trans-cultural and gender aspects.
Psychological concepts: The psychological concepts of health protection and health promotion.
Psychological healthcare services: The characteristics of the psychological healthcare services in the inpatient and outpatient sector.
Psychological measures in working with other health care professionals: The various psychological measures considering medical aspects in terms of the collaboration with other health care professionals.
First aid: The emergency treatment given to a sick or injured person in the case of circulatory and/or respiratory failure, unconsciousness, wounds, bleeding, shock or poisoning.
Psychiatry: Psychiatry is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of health psychologist.

Respond to changing situations in health care: Cope with pressure and respond appropriately and in time to unexpected and rapidly changing situations in healthcare.
Educate on the prevention of illness: Offer evidence-based advice on how to avoid ill health, educate and advise individuals and their carers on how to prevent ill health and/or be able to advise how to improve their environment and health conditions. Provide advice on the identification of risks leading to ill health and help to increase the patients’ resilience by targeting prevention and early intervention strategies.
Encourage healthy behaviours: Encourage the adoption of healthy behaviours such as exercise, a healthy diet, oral hygiene, health checks and preventative medical screenings.
Inform policy makers on health-related challenges: Provide useful information related to health care professions to ensure policy decisions are made in the benefit of communities.
Employ cognitive behaviour treatment techniques: Employ cognitive behavioural treatment techniques for those whose treatment involves cognitive re-training, addressing dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviours and cognitive processes and contents through a variety of systematic procedures.
Use clinical assessment techniques: Use clinical reasoning techniques and clinical judgement when applying a range of appropriate assessment techniques, such as mental status assessment, diagnosis, dynamic formulation, and potential treatment planning.
Contribute to continuity of health care: Contribute to the delivery of coordinated and continuous healthcare.
Advise policy makers in healthcare: Present research to policy makers, health care providers, and educators to encourage improvements in public health.
Use e-health and mobile health technologies: Use mobile health technologies and e-health (online applications and services) in order to enhance the provided healthcare.
Provide health psychological advice: Provide health psychological expert opinions, reports and advice in regard to health related risk behaviour and its causes.
Evaluate psychological health measures: Evaluate the provided psychological health measures in order to assess their impact and their outcomes.
Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
Analyse processes influencing health care delivery: Investigate the communication between healthcare practitioners and patients, observing psychological interventions to improve communication, adherence, preparation for stressful medical procedures, and other topics of interest.
Apply health psychological measures: Apply health psychological measures on persons of all ages and groups regarding health behavior, particularly with regard to health related risk behaviors such as diet, exercise, smoking, including advice in relation to the promotion and maintenance of health and the prevention of health risks, taking into account leisure and work.
Test for emotional patterns: Discern patterns in the emotions of individuals by using various tests in order to understand the causes of these emotions.
Analyse large-scale data in healthcare: Carry out large-scale data gathering such as questionnaire surveys, and analyse the obtained data.
Formulate a case conceptualisation model for therapy: Compose an individualised treatment plan in collaboration with the individual, striving to match his or her needs, situation, and treatment goals to maximise the probability of therapeutic gain; considering any possible personal, social, and systemic barriers that might undermine treatment.
Respond to healthcare users’ extreme emotions: React accordingly when a healthcare user becomes hyper-manic, panicky, extremely distressed, agressive, violent, or suicidal, following appropriate training if working in contexts where patients go through extreme emotions regularly.
Manage healthcare users’ data: Keep accurate client records which also satisfy legal and professional standards and ethical obligations in order to facilitate client management, ensuring that all clients’ data (including verbal, written and electronic) are treated confidentially.
Deal with emergency care situations: Assess the signs and be well-prepared for a situation that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health, security, property or environment.

Help healthcare users to develop social perceptiveness: Provide strategies and support to healthcare users with social difficulties, helping them understand others` verbal and non-verbal behaviour and actions and guiding them in learning to interpret a combination people`s words, tone of voice, body language, gestures, and facial expressions; while developing better self-confidence in social situations.
Work with patterns of psychological behaviour: Work with the patterns of a patient or client’s psychological behaviour, which may be outside of their conscious awareness, such as non-verbal and pre-verbal patterns, clinical processes of defence mechanisms, resistances, transference and counter-transference.
Analyse psychological aspects of illness: Analyse the psychological impact of illness on individuals, close ones, and caregivers and use psychological interventions to promote self-management, helping patients cope with pain or illness, improve their quality of life and mitigate the effects of disability and handicap.
Provide health education: Provide evidence based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
Conduct psychological assessement: Assess patient`s behaviour and needs via observation and tailored interviews, administering and interpreting psychometric and idiosyncratic assessments.
Follow clinical guidelines: Follow agreed protocols and guidelines in support of healthcare practice which are provided by healthcare institutions, professional associations, or authorities and also scientific organisations.
Test for behavioural patterns: Discern patterns in the behaviour of individuals by using various tests in order to understand the causes of their behaviour.
Advise on healthcare users’ informed consent: Ensure patients/clients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of proposed treatments so they can give informed consent, engaging patients/clients in the process of their care and treatment.
Manage health promotion activities: Plan, implement and evaluate health promotion activities and projects in different settings such as kindergarten and school, workplace and business, social living environment and primary health care, particularly in the context of projects.
Advise on mental health: Advise persons of all ages and groups in terms of the health-promoting aspects of individual behaviour and institutions with regard to the personal, social and structural factors on physical and mental health.
Interpret psychological tests: Interpret psychological tests in order to obtain information on your patient`s intelligence, achievements, interests, and personality.
Comply with quality standards related to healthcare practice: Apply quality standards related to risk management, safety procedures, patients feedback, screening and medical devices in daily practice, as they are recognized by the national professional associations and authorities.
Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
Apply health sciences: Apply a broad range of bio-medical, psycho-social, organisational, educational, and societal aspects of health, disease, and healthcare to improve healthcare services and to improve quality of life.
Provide psychological health assessment strategies: Provide strategies, methods and techniques of psychological health assessment in specific areas of activity such as of pain, illness and stress management.
Adhere to organisational guidelines: Adhere to organisational or department specific standards and guidelines. Understand the motives of the organisation and the common agreements and act accordingly.
Counsel clients: Assist and guide clients to overcome their personal, social, or psychological issues.
Perform therapy sessions: Work in sessions with individuals or groups to deliver therapy in a controlled environment.
Work in a multicultural environment in health care: Interact, relate and communicate with individuals from a variety of different cultures, when working in a healthcare environment.
Promote inclusion: Promote inclusion in health care and social services and respect diversity of beliefs, culture, values and preferences, keeping in mind the importance of equality and diversity issues.
Facilitate the psychological development of the healthcare user: Facilitate the process of self-discovery for the healthcare user, helping them to learn about their condition and become more aware of and in control of moods, feelings, thoughts, behaviour, and their origins. Help the healthcare user learn to manage problems and difficulties with greater resilience.
Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
Apply conceptual thinking: Identify patterns and connections between situations; identify key issues in complex situations.
Provide health psychological diagnosis: Analyse persons and groups of persons of all ages using health psychological methods in relation to the various aspects of health behaviour and its causes.
Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
Apply organisational techniques: Employ a set of organisational techniques and procedures which facilitate the achievement of the goals set. Use these resources efficiently and sustainably, and show flexibility when required.
Develop a collaborative therapeutic relationship: Develop a mutually collaborative therapeutic relationship during treatment, fostering and gaining healthcare users’ trust and cooperation.
Provide health psychological treatment advice: Provide treatment advice to persons and groups of persons of all ages in relation to the various aspects of mental health related risk behaviours such as diet, exercise, substance abuse, stress management.
Provide health psychological concepts: Develop, implement and evaluate health psychological concepts.
Apply context specific clinical competences: Apply professional and evidence based assessment, goal setting, delivery of intervention and evaluation of clients, taking into account the developmental and contextual history of the clients, within one`s own scope of practice.
Motivate patiens: Encourage the patient’s motivation to change and promote the belief that therapy can help, using techniques and treatment engagement procedures for this purpose.
Assess healthcare users’ risk for harm: Evaluate the healthcare user’s potential for harm to him- or herself or others, intervening effectively to minimise risk and implement prevention methods.
Provide health counselling: Provide health counselling, training and coaching to people of all ages, groups and organisations.
Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
Analyse health damaging behaviours: Examine behaviours that may be damaging to an individual’s health, such as smoking, drug abuse, or poor diet. Use psychological theories and interventions for primary prevention and health related behavioural change.
Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.
Promote psycho-social education: Explain mental health issues in simple and understandable ways, helping de-pathologise and de-stigmatise common mental health stereotypes and condemning prejudicial or discriminatory behaviours, systems, institutions, practices, and attitudes that are clearly separatist, abusive or harmful to people’s mental health or their social inclusion.
Provide health psychological analysis: Advise organizations and institutions in regard to health conditions, measures of health promotion, health care and rehabilitation by providing them with health psychological analysis.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of health psychologist. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Psychosomatics: Interdisciplinary medical specialty addressing the connection between the social, psychological, and behavioral attitudes and their impact on human processes.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of health psychologist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Ensure proper appointment administration: Set up a proper procedure to manage appointments, including policies related to cancellation and nonappearance.
Apply a holistic approach in care: Use bio-psycho-social models for care and take into account cultural and existential dimensions of the healthcare user, transforming a holistic understanding into practical measures.
Diagnose mental disorders: Formulate a diagnosis for people with a variety of issues and mental disorders, ranging from short-term personal and emotional problems to severe, chronic mental conditions, recognising and critically evaluating any possible mental health issues.
Apply caseload management: Manage a number of patients within a given amount of time, striving to provide optimum health services.
Work on the effects of abuse: Work with individuals on the effects of abuse and trauma such as sexual, physical, psychological, cultural and neglect.
Provide treatment strategies for challenges to human health: Identify possible treatment protocols for the challenges to human health within a given community in cases such as infectious diseases of high consequences at the global level.
Employ foreign languages for health-related research: Use foreign languages for conducting and collaborating in health-related research.
Employ foreign languages in care: Communicate in foreign languages with healthcare users, their carers, or services providers. Use foreign languages to faciliate patient care according to the needs of the patient.

ISCO group and title

2634 – Psychologists





  1. Health psychologist – ESCO
Last updated on August 8, 2022

Thinking about your next career move?

Answer a few questions about your jobs and education, and we’ll give you suggestions about your best possible career move. It’s completely free!