Clinical Health Psychology

The study of clinical health psychology has emerged as a major exciting focus for clinical psychologists.

About The Clinical Health Psychology Research Focus

The clinical health focus is conceived within a broader general focus in health psychology and is further facilitated by multidisciplinary work with physicians, sociologists, biologists, and health educators. Students choosing the clinical health focus take specialized courses and do specialized clinical work in addition to their core courses. By combining clinical health psychology with these other areas students receive a broader focus and can sub-specialize in a specific area of health within this broader context.

The Clinical Health Psychology research focus is part of a broad Health Psychology research focus within the Department of Psychological Sciences at Kent State. Our health psychology faculty work together and graduate students often choose mentors outside their own training program. Many graduate students have secondary mentors that cross sub-disciplinary lines.

Ph.D. Training

Research Training

Clinical health psychology research is broadly defined as investigation into the interaction between psychological and physical health. It can focus on how diseases impact people psychologically or how psychological processes impact disease. Work can range from laboratory to medical/health to community settings. The training for the research focus in clinical health psychology involves engagement in research, in collaboration with a faculty mentor, on a topic related to health psychology, which may range from rather basic research to more applied investigations. During the course of graduate training, students develop a particular research interest area within the general area of the mentor's expertise. Students typically conduct both their master's thesis and doctoral dissertation in their identified area of interest.


Students complete all departmental and clinical core course requirements, as well as the clinical program's requisite number of elective credits. Students can take additional health focused courses within and outside the department. Students may choose to have some of their elective requirements waived so that they can involve themselves in additional research projects.

Clinical Experiences

Clinical students complete their practicum requirements by taking the general practicum in their second year, and selecting an advanced or specialty practicum in their third year. It is recommended that students choose a third-year specialty practicum related to their research focus, if one is available. In addition, students may request that they be assigned cases related to their area of interest when it is possible and feasible for the Clinic to do this. Students also complete at least one year of the required field placement in an assessment and/or treatment setting, and we have several directly related to health.

Core Faculty

Clinical Health Faculty

Dr. John Gunstad - The neuropsychology of aging and disease, with a particular interest in cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Dr. Joel Hughes - The role of psychological and social factors in cardiovascular health and disease.

Psychological Science Faculty

Dr. Judith Gere - Studies personality and romantic relationship processes that influence people's self-growth and subjective well-being (i.e., happiness).
Dr. John Updegraff - Health communication and health behavior; Cognitive and emotional processes involved in well-being and adjustment to stress.

Faculty With Related Interests

Dr. Karin Coifman   (Adult Psychopathology) studies emotion processing and the development of psychopathology in the context of acute stress and chronic illness.

Dr. Amy Sato The role of stress and family influences in the etiology, maintenance, and treatment of pediatric health conditions (e.g., obesity).

Dr. Mary Beth Spitznagel Caregiver burden, burden transfer, dementia, wellness, occupational stress and burnout

Recent Clinical Health Graduates

Our clinical health research focus has been particularly successful in placing our graduates in professorships and postdoctoral training programs.  Here’s what some of our grads are doing now.

  • Rebecca Cameron, Ph.D., Sacramento State University
  • Elizabeth Casey, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Onondaga Community College, New York
  • Jennifer Ford, Ph.D., Psychologist, Sloane Kettering Cancer Center, New York
  • Pamela Geller, Ph.D., Drexel University
  • Carly Goldstein, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Brown University
  • Jennifer MacKenzie, Ph.D., Kaiser Healthcare, California.
  • Jerrimiah Schumm, Ph.D., Veterans Administration, Cincinnati.
  • Matthew Skinta, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Harbor UCLA Medical Center.
  • Lisa Stines, Ph.D., PTSD Treatment & Research Program, Case Western Reserve University.
  • Lisa Wade, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University
  • Ana Maria Vranceanu, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School.
  • Ihori Kobayashi, Ph.D.,  Howard University
  • Sara Perez, Ph.D.,  Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Akron
  • Edward Waldrep, Ph.D.
  • Kristen Walter, Ph.D., Graduate Psychologist, Cincinnati VA Medical Center, PTSD and Anxiety Disorders Division