There's different types of psychologist?
When people think about psychology, they think about mental health. Psychology is a broad discipline that encompasses many aspects of life and is more holistic than people may initially perceive. Ultimately, psychology's aims are to improve the lives and the performance of the masses. Sports and Exercise Psychologists work with major sports teams throughout the world to ensure that the players are supported, that they use the right mental techniques to enhance their performance, and to understand the opponents. Clinical and Counselling Psychologists tend to deal with mental health concerns (the traditional notion of a psychologist). A Forensic Psychologist works in the criminal justice system (think of Robbie Coltrane's Cracker, or Sue Johnston's character, Grace Foley, in waking the dead). There are also Educational Psychologists, Neuropsychologists, and Occupational/Work Psychologists.
Okay, there's loads of different types of psychologist. What, then, is a health psychologist?
Health Psychologists are concerned with physical health as opposed to mental health. Health Psychologists are concerned with improving the Quality of Life of either individuals, or the general public as a whole. A Health Psychologist can be found in a multitude of settings, whether it be government public health settings, designing and developing public health interventions (such as stop smoking campaigns, obesity campaigns, or health screening campaigns), often encouraging large numbers of people to engage in better health behaviours to improve the overall health and wellbeing of the nation. Health Psychologists can also be found in research departments, studying a huge range of topics that impact Quality of Life. Whether that is in oncological research (cancer), pain research, behaviour change research, or many more. Often Health Psychologists look at novel ways of encouraging people to live healthier, live longer, and enjoy life at the same time.
Health Psychology is one of the newest strands of psychology. This explains why it's likely to be less known by the general public. Yet the public also are often not aware of what they are missing out on. Health Psychologists working in private practice can benefit individuals. I shall give some metaphorical examples below:
Example 1 - Client wanting Gastric Band/Bariatric Surgery
I'm sure everyone knows someone who has had bariatric surgery. Not too long ago it barely existed, now it's often seen as the quick and easy answer to obesity. However, there are significant risks to take into consideration. Furthermore, having surgery unfortunately does not fix the eating mindset. It is not that uncommon for those who opt for bariatric surgery to return to their previous eating habits, gradually. Health Psychology can help in two ways, it can either help mentally prepare you to change your health behaviours (eating and exercise) prior to the operation to enhance success of surgery and prevent the waste of thousands of pounds (surgery often leads to cosmetic surgery through large amounts of excess skin); or, it can result in you being inspired to enjoy the weight loss journey without the need for surgery.
Example 2 - Cancer patient struggling to come to terms with the diagnosis
Cancer is becoming increasingly prevalent. As the world's population lives longer, humans become more prone to chronic illnesses. Cancer is often one of these. Historically cancer was a fatal disease, yet more and more are now recovering. It is now considered to be a chronic illness, likely to impact 2 in 3 people in the UK. How can Health Psychology help? As an ethical practitioner I would never promise cures, but I'd like to think that people with a cancer diagnosis could benefit from support and interventions to enable them to improve their quality of life, accept the condition, and reduce their levels of cancer-related stress. It has been shown that the inclusion of psychological support can increase the lifespan of patients with metastatic breast cancer, more so than just the use of support groups.
What does Dr. Tim offer?
When I initially left my finance career in Guernsey to go to University, I envisaged myself becoming a clinical psychologist. I was oblivious to the various strands of psychology, and when I was told about them I had tunnel vision and could only see what I wanted. Throughout my undergraduate degree I became more and more aware that my interests lay in the realms of health psychology. Having a long-term health condition myself (a degenerative retinal condition), I quickly learned that I could study the lived experience of others like me, enhancing my understanding of how others like me cope with the condition. This lead me to change my direction, resulting in signing up to commence an MSc in Health Psychology at the University of Bath. Whilst it was a very challenging course, I had the pleasure of working with, and learning from, some of the UK's leading psychologists. Here I gained appreciation for the psychological processes relating to the pain experience, how the mind can impact upon the stress response, and the immune system, and how important quality of life is to individuals. I was fortunate enough to complete a placement with the World Health Organisation's Centre for the Study of Quality of Life, where I researched the Quality of Life in Britain. Through this research I gained an understanding of how many aspects of life can impact Quality of Life, and how interventions could be developed to make improvements on both an individual and population-wide level. Following the MSc training, I commenced a Doctoral course in London. As opposed to clinical psychology training, where there are universities throughout the UK offering courses, for Health Psychology there are a handful of universities offering the doctorate course. The course is based on many components, proving competence in clinical practice, intervention development and delivery, consultancy, teaching and training, and research. My placement involved supporting both groups and individuals with substance misuse issues, in their recovery. This provided me with a wealth of practical behaviour change interventional skills and experience that is transferrable across many other health behaviours. During my time in London I took the opportunity to develop as many skills as possible, noting that when I returned to Guernsey the cost of courses and continued professional development would be dwarfed by the cost of travel and accommodation. This viewpoint allowed me to gain many useful skills that can be used collaboratively to enhance my clients' experience.
As previously mentioned, my passion is in helping people to adapt to, and manage, long-term health conditions. Should someone be diagnosed with diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and require support to make some necessary changes to their lifestyle; should someone receive a diagnosis of cancer; or should someone discover that they have a disability and they are struggling to come to terms with it, I am able to deliver evidence-based interventions, and myself, to help them get through it, and get back to the business of living.
I do, however, enjoy a varied workload, and would love to support people who just want to improve their health and wellbeing. Whether that be to avoid disease and illness in the future, or because they want to be healthier or look good. Often, despite knowing what we should do, we can lack the motivation to make the changes. I have been extensively trained in motivational techniques and can support you when the post-new year resolution motivation has wained.
Other conditions that I can provide support with are listed on the website so I don't want to bore you here.
If anyone has any questions on what Health Psychology is, please feel free to contact me!
If you, or anyone you know, would like an appointment, again, please contact me or pass on my details.
Currently I am working out of Storm Force Fitness in Smith Street, St Peter Port (above the old post office), so a great and convenient location!
Thanks for taking the time to read this!
Dr Tim Mahy, BSc (Hons), MSc, DPsych, MBPsS, Cert.Hyp
Health Psychologist (HCPC and Guernsey registered)
Tel: 07781 105432
I'm a doctor of psychology, born in Guernsey, educated at a tertiary level in Bristol, Bath, and London. Having worked and trained with some of the leading Health Psychologists in the UK, and having a passion about how Health Psychology can truly benefit many people, I now want to spread the word, as well as offer consultations to people wanting to make changes in their lives.