Advancing Psychology as a Bio-behavioral Science

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Concerns for the integrity of psychology as an independent discipline have caused some psychologists to object to introducing any knowledge from the biological sciences into the training of psychologists. However, calls for the greater incorporation of the behavioral sciences in medical education, increased attention to research on the mechanisms of bio-behavioral interaction, and initiatives in translational medical research and clinical care, have prompted increased interest in interdisciplinary research, health care, and teaching. These changes, in turn, are resulting in a re-conceptualization of the structure of academic medicine with increasing emphasis upon multidisciplinary knowledge and interdisciplinary collaboration, and less emphasis upon disciplinary insularity and competitiveness. If clinical health psychology is to play a role in this evolving concept of academic health care, it must adequately prepare its trainees to function in interdisciplinary academic health care settings. This will require not only expertise in the role of behavioral factors relevant to medical disorders, but also some basic familiarity with the biological processes to which those behavioral factors relate. With the evolution of its fund of knowledge, clinical health psychology has the potential to utilize its science to discover, describe, interpret, teach and clinically apply knowledge of the mechanisms of interaction between biological functions and behavioral, learning, cognitive, socio-cultural and environmental processes. By failing to seize this initiative, clinical health psychology risks becoming irrelevant to the evolving model of medical research, education and health care.

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