Health Psychology, Performance Psychology, Sport Psychology manage anxiety

On Christmas eve, the world and the discipline of health psychology lost a pioneer in the field of psycho-oncology, Dr. Jimmie Holland .  Dr. Holland brought psychology, mental health factors and an awareness of the overwhelming anxiety response of patients and family members to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

health psychology sports psychology cancer

It is always useful to remind the general audience that the differences between the specializations of psychology (for example: Health, Sport, Performance, School, Organizational) are predominantly due to the specialized settings in which psychology is applied.  In addition to context specific methods, principals and techniques, the Psychologist working in each specialization must have a comprehensive knowledge of the complex factors, organizational and interpersonal, operating in each context.  That is why specializations exist.  Also, this reinforces the importance of establishing criteria for designating oneself as a specialist psychologist in an area of applied practice.  Dr. Holland brought the research and practice of  health psychology to the previously neglected area of cancer care.  Her understanding was revolutionary with regard to the medical/hospital environment, the patient, family and community reaction to the disease and the existing neglect of the emotional component within those areas.  It is shocking to consider that the health psychology innovations which Dr. Holland initiated were not a part of cancer care until the late 1970’s.

Health Psychology and all performance effectiveness closely linked

The overlap between specializations such as health psychology, sport and performance psychology is several fold.  First, the clinical understanding of personality, family or organizational systems functioning is essential.  In an athletic setting, having a sophisticated understanding of individual personality factors and how they interface with group/team/organizational dynamics contributes to optimal professional effectiveness.  Second, the ability to grasp the group dynamics of a team, department or larger organizational entity is critical.  With this capacity, a psychologist can understanding the culture within which behavioral patterns occur.  Knowledge of systems theory and the commitment to the concept that all individual behavior is embedded in a larger multi-determined system, is a high level professional attribute . Third among the overlapping skills is the psychologist’s knowledge and training in the use of oneself as an agent of assessment and change.  Acquiring the capacity to experience an individual or group and evaluate the cognitive, emotional and behavior reactions they foster within the psychologist is a characteristic of a high functioning psychologist.  A fourth important attribute across specializations is a psychologist’s willingness to remain non-defensive and humble.  This quality allows for others to feel heard and respected.  These four qualities are certainly not an exhaustive list of those required to function at a high level as a psychologist. However,  they are critical for a psychologist to work a the highest skill levels regardless of the specialty area.