Case study

Health psychologist — Sarah

Sarah works in both a clinical and research setting. Find out how she provides support to patients with long-term health conditions

How did you get into health psychology?

My pathway to becoming a qualified health psychologist involved studying an MSc Health Psychology degree part time and then completing The British Psychological Society (BPS) Stage 2 training via the independent practice route.

I worked as a research assistant at a university between undertaking my MSc and the Stage 2 training, focusing on self-management interventions for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

I have now been working as a qualified practitioner for four years. My first practitioner role was working as a health psychologist in respiratory care at an NHS hospital. In my current role I work for a specialist diabetes centre.

Seeing patients learn new and better ways to cope with illness and reduce the impact it has on them, is very rewarding

How relevant are your psychology qualifications to your job?

As a health psychologist you're registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and you can't become registered as a practitioner without the Stage 2 qualification. To work clinically or within the NHS, this registration is essential. It's also essential if you want to use the title health psychologist, as this is a protected title. My qualifications are very relevant to my job.

What's a typical day like as a health psychologist?

I work in both clinical and research settings in the NHS, often combining the two in my role. I'm a co-lead for the psychological component of patient interventions and I support the development of self-management and education programmes for patients with long-term conditions, such as stroke survivors, diabetes and cardiac conditions.

This involves looking at the education that we provide to patients and implementing changes to better support a patients learning and understanding of their condition.

Alongside this, I also deliver training to healthcare professionals in behaviour change and motivational interviewing. From the research side, I've been involved in designing interventions and interviewing patients about their needs, how they cope with their condition and the impact it has had.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy helping patients with chronic conditions. Seeing them learn new and better ways to cope with illness and reduce the impact it has on them, physically or psychologically, is very rewarding.

What are the challenges?

It's not unusual for health psychologists to be the only psychologist in their department and this can be challenging. It's therefore important to have supervision and give yourself time to reflect.

What advice can you give to others?

It's important when you get to Stage 2 of the training to be in the right kind of employment so that you can access the range of experience and support that you will need.

Also, be clear on what you want to do when you've completed training. Some psychologists have a PhD, but not Stage 2, and work academically, teaching and conducting research. But to work in more clinical settings and to be registered with the HCPC, completion of Stage 2 is essential.

Find out more

Discover more about the role of a health psychologist