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Do we need to rethink health psychology?

Commentaries on Crossley's "Do we need to rethink health psychology?"

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This paper provides a preliminary address to the question of whether mainstream health psychology needs to be 'rethought'. In order to do this, it first provides a definition of 'mainstream' health psychology, characterizing it as a discipline wedded to the increasingly popular 'biopsychosocial' model of health care and practice. Because of the need to provide data consistent with 'biomedical' data and amenable to statistic analysis and modelling, commitment to the biopsychosocial model routinely involves the quantification of subjective experiences of health and illness. Accordingly, health psychology has become increasingly acceptable to medical clinicians and researchers who are familiar with the language and procedures of quantitative investigation. But this paper asks, at what cost? Taking a number of broad substantive areas of health psychology as illustrative (e.g. health behaviour, pain, disease, death and dying), it is argued that a characteristic feature of people's subjective orientation to such issues involves reflexive consideration of ethical, moral and emotional issues. It is argued that mainstream health psychology largely bypasses such issues in its pursuit of a goal-oriented 'technical' programme akin to that of medical science and practice. Not only does this represent a relinquishing of the unique subject matter of human (health) psychology, it may also be unethical, potentially perpetuating the objectification and depersonalization experienced by so many people in health care.
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Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: August 1, 2001

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