Health psychology refers to a branch of medicine that investigates how social, biological, and psychological factors impact human health. Therefore, like several other health sciences, health psychology has advanced through experimental and scientific research, characterized by describing particular hypotheses and applying scientific knowledge to experimental participants, comprised of animal or human subjects. Unfortunately, clinical and experimental models of health psychology often conflict despite their interdependence in assisting practitioners and researchers to address pressing issues in society and propose evidence-based solutions. Thus, this essay discusses why it is essential to understand and adopt experimental and scientific concepts of psychology.
The ultimate goal of health psychology is to identify, describe, predict, explain, and sometimes influence the behavior of individuals by altering their mental processes. Thus, experimental approaches to psychology adopt a set of guidelines to collect, analyze, process, and present data or information about their research topics. On the other hand, scientific or clinical psychologists are inclined toward the application of psychological concepts to mental healthcare to diagnose and treat mental conditions and psychological disorders (Denes & Pizzamiglio, 2020). However, scientific psychologists construct their hypotheses from theories and scientific concepts, responsible for guiding their research on animal and human subjects to prove or refute particular theories. Hence, they depend on the information obtained from psychological studies and research to inform their practice and guide them towards achieving improved outcomes more efficiently.
Unfortunately, clinical concepts in health psychology do not always align with concepts in experimental psychology, resulting in conflicts and issues in applying these concepts to address human suffering. However, regardless of whether a health psychology practitioner is specialized in clinical practice or experimental psychology, it is critical to familiarize themselves with ideas and knowledge in both areas because they complement each other and reinforce the psychological practice (Field & Wilcox, 2017). For instance, the globe has experienced significant changes due to improved technology, more efficient communication, and existing in an increasingly dynamic environment. Hence, although a clinical practitioner may be equipped with sufficient psychological knowledge of theories and recommended practice, numerous environmental factors can interfere with the reliability and relevance of these approaches (Denes & Pizzamiglio, 2020). Therefore, understanding the concepts of clinical and experimental health psychology allows practitioners to leverage approaches from both fields to obtain reliable information and advance their practice.
Subsequently, understanding clinical and experimental psychology is crucial in emerging fields like nature-based and assisted-animal therapies because they are still at their developmental stage. Thus, keeping up with the latest information can help clinical psychologists to apply them appropriately and limit adverse outcomes (Field & Wilcox, 2017). Moreover, learning about concepts in experimental and clinical psychology can assist practitioners to avoid several complexities and issues like misdiagnosis, wrong drug administration, and medical errors (Denes & Pizzamiglio, 2020). Also, the knowledge enables experimental psychologists to adhere to ethical principles when dealing with human and animal subjects. Thus, it is advisable to reconcile these fields because they are more effective when integrated to maximize their potential benefits.
Experimental psychology plays a critical role in informing clinical health psychology practice. However, these fields adopt different approaches and unique guidelines to achieve their purpose. Nonetheless, experimental psychology and clinical psychology complement each other as none can exist and function effectively without the other. Therefore, psychologists should prioritize gaining more knowledge in both areas to put them in a better solution to address arising issues using evidence-based information.
Denes, G., & Pizzamiglio, L. (Eds.). (2020). Handbook of clinical and experimental neuropsychology. Psychology Press.
Field, A. P., & Wilcox, R. R. (2017). Robust statistical methods: A primer for clinical psychology and experimental psychopathology researchers. Behaviour research and therapy, 98, 19-38.