Neurobehavioral Medicine Consultants
Health Psychology

Health Psychology:  Basic Principles

The mind and body are inextricably related and have profound effects on each other. Studies have shown that a high percentage of the most common complaints to primary care physicians have no identifiable organic cause. Approximately two thirds of all primary care visits are driven by psychological factors, and a third of all patients suffer from panic, generalized anxiety and depression. Another third of patients experience stress and adjustment disorders, also with anxiety or depression. Evidence also shows that patients who have unresolved feelings of anger or depression are much more likely to experience certain types of physical disorders such as cancer and heart disease. These results illustrate the adverse influence of feelings such as anxiety, anger and depression on the patient's ability to stay healthy or recover from illness.

Patients who can deal appropriately with the psychological impact of their medical problems are much more willing to participate actively and effectively in their health care. Effective management of psychological conditions may also help patients lower the risks of developing certain types of physical illnesses. Helping them achieve this is the role of the health psychologist.


The health psychologist focuses on helping patients identify psycho-social risk factors that may affect their overall health status. After assessing the patient's coping strategies and adjustment to illness, the psychologist works with the patient to implement lifestyle modifications which minimize the impact of risk factors on the patient's health and quality of life.

Neurobehavioral Medicine Consultants psychologists use a behavior-oriented approach, with emphasis on helping the patient understand the physiologic effects of psychological problems (mind-body relationship). This is particularly important because most patients are initially unaware of the impact of psychological factors on their health and are motivated by perceived physiologic complaints rather than psychological ones. They also use neurofeedback (EEG Biofeedback), a technique shown to be effective in management of pain, stress, depression and anxiety. They believe that the impact of many acute and chronic illnesses may be minimized through behavior modification, and emphasize the effects that psychological, biological and social factors have on health and illness.

Alternative techniques which some people have found helpful include yoga, relaxation and meditation. The beneficial aspects of these methods are incorporated into the course of neurofeedback training.


Patients benefit from individual sessions with the health psychologist, but may also receive valuable support from moderated group discussions in which they participate with other patients facing similar challenges.

Physical illness profoundly affects the patient in many ways, but its impact extends to members of the patient's family and to friends as well. Family members, caregivers and other people significant in the patient's life are likely to benefit from participation in group support sessions.

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