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College of Humanities & Sciences

Psychology Department

Program Details

The Health Psychology PhD program at VCU's first cohort of graduate students entered the program in Fall, 2010. This represents an exciting time in the development of the program and the first graduate students will have the opportunity to make significant contributions to the ‘look’ of the program.

Graduate Handbook for Health Psychology [PDF]  – In this document you can learn about the health psychology program’s training philosophy and goals as well as the curriculum and requirements for the master’s and PhD programs.

The health psychology faculty will strive to assist graduate students in developing strengths in a number of areas:

  • Knowledge of psychological science. Students are trained in the major areas of psychology, including the biological bases of behavior, child development, social and personality processes, cognition and learning, cultural influences, and psychopathology. In addition to mastering such subject matter, students are encouraged to become knowledgeable about the most recent developments in the field by, for example, attending professional conferences and joining a professional association of psychologists, such as the Association for Psychological Science and the American Psychological Association.
  • Knowledge of health psychology. Students will also develop expertise in the psychological bases of physical health and illness, including such topics as health behavior and primary prevention, stress and coping, patient-provider relationships, epidemiology of disease, psychological issues in chronic and terminal illness, and health promotion through psychological, social, and behavioral means. Students will also develop a professional identity as health psychologists through research mentorship, attendance at specialized research conferences, and membership in one or more professional associations of health psychologists, such as the Society for Behavioral Medicine, the Society for Prevention Research, Division 38 of the American Psychological Association, and others.
  • Research skills. The program emphasizes the development of laboratory and field research skills. In addition to the Master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation, students are expected to collaborate with faculty on research projects throughout their training so as to enhance the breadth and sophistication of their research skills, publish research in peer-reviewed journals, and present research at conferences.
  • Theoretical and conceptual skills. Like other sciences, health psychology progresses through both theory and research. In addition to the mechanics of design, students develop the ability to conceptualize research problems in terms of broader theoretical descriptions and explanations as a means to understand health-relevant phenomena in more meaningful ways.
  • Instructional skills. Many students choose to enter academia when their graduate work is completed, so health psychology training includes opportunities to develop instructional skills. In addition to presentations of research at departmental functions, students are encouraged to enroll in teaching practicum and to develop the skills needed to teach health psychology to others. All students are encouraged to teach or co-teach psychology courses at VCU once they have earned their Master’s degree.
  • Applied skills. Students also choose to build careers in health care organizations (e.g., hospital psychology or psychiatry departments) when their graduate work is completed, so a final goal of the Health Psychology program is the development of research skills needed to make strong contributions in such settings. Students specifically interested in clinical careers are advised to consider the Clinical or Counseling Psychology Program rather than the Health Psychology Program. 

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