Health psychology as a discipline requires ability to demonstrate personality and professional qualities in order to address modern day needs of the society. There are three stages of analysis involved in comprehending how a person or a group of health care providers work. Most studies dedicated to personality mainly address the individual level, which is considered level 1 and pay less attention to the other levels. According to Matthews (2011), “Health psychology refers to a plethora of individual-level constructs that may not be well distinguished-psychometrically or conceptually,” (p. 1). This can be demonstrated by the manner in which constructing health behavior, ability to cope with them, and social cognition has common characteristics. For instance, the Theory of Planned Behavior is not only critical in controlling beliefs, but also important in driving choice to cope. To cope requires an influential meta-cognitive belief to identify the meanings emanating from personal experiences. Personality is important as it could influence the understanding of a client’s symptom in order to formulate an intervention procedure (Wells, 2000). This research paper reviews relevant literature that would lead to a conclusive stance on the significance of personality and professionalism in understanding differences in patients’ needs. To narrow down the scope of the research, the paper identifies sexual issues that require deeper understanding of patients for a health psychologist to make informed decision on intervention programs.
The Need for Personality and Professional Interventions in Health Psychology
Personality is not the only significant issue in health psychology as Level 2 and Level 3 also influence the positive outcomes of interventions. For instance the different personalities that doctors and other professional bureaucrats would affect the taken procedures in any given health care program. In as much as adequate research lacks in building of the interrelations of all stakeholders in health care provision, there is still the burden of incorporating differing personalities of doctors and differing personalities of their clients. Matthews (2011) agrees that there are ongoing debates in the United States and the United Kingdom with regard to mutual obligation of the doctors’ roles and the independence of clients as participants.
ü Lack of adequate research on personality differences is due to limitation of the functional fidelity as persons fail to use contextual triggers in real life situations.
ü The use of sophisticated field-based interventions would lead to a deeper understanding of personality issues and the health care services in order to enhance the clinical practice.
ü Personality, which in this case represents Level 1 health psychology issue and the professional goals of an individual, can be studied using the risk of alcohol consumption to vulnerability of the drinker to risky sexual intercourse.
In line with the cognitive-adaptive personality theory, there are personal differences that influence the adaptive nature of individuals with regard to focal life challenges. The differences are a result of traits based on personality adaptive trade-offs that become vital in understanding individual patient needs. This literature review builds on the importance of interpreting personality differences of the patients before an intervention program is laid by a health psychologist. In recent times, most researchers have tied to explore the limitations of personal differences among doctors themselves, patients and their doctors.
Whereas Franko, Thompson and Affenito (2008) examine the relationship between family meals and how meals affect their health issues; VanZile-Tamsen, Testa and Harlow (2006) found out that “among a community sample of young women, sexual health risk behavior and substance use are highly related, yet they do not compose a single complex of behavior” (p. 253). A likely cause of the above results is because female’s significant portion of their sexual risks are affiliated to sexually precarious partners which compares less with women’s control under their own drinking. Drinking behavior among young women can be explained more with drinking behavior than with sexual risk behavior. Despite the findings by VanZile-Tamsen et al. (2006), there should be an effort through research in order to establish the constructs between personality and its related sexual risk-taking conducts.
Elsewhere, research by Center for Disease Control & Prevention (2007) showed that an 80% of new HIV infections among women are as a result of heterosexual transmission. The reason for this is women physiological structure which makes them more susceptible to the risk of sexually transmitted infections than their male counterparts. This calls for the ardent protection by women during sexual intercourse. The condom technology also favors men as male protection condoms are at an advanced state than female condoms. Females are mostly left with the option of negotiating males to wear their condom before sexual intercourse. Addressing sexual behavior of women should start at creating awareness on the sexual connotation at an early stage and give women the opportunity to make informed decision before drinking and engaging in sex. “Addressing women’s cognitions that can lead to risky sexual behavior is also crucial,” (Norris, Stoner & Hessler, 2009).
Cognitive mediation is one model that can be used by health psychologist to understand how women comprehend situational information before making a choice to engage in sexual intercourse. This model is applicable in understanding the effects of drinking alcohol on women’s cognitive decision to use condom as suggested by VanZile-Tamsen et al. (2006) and extended by Norris et al. (2009) on involvement in unprotected sex. The main appraisal parameter in a sexual situation is women’s cognitive antecedents that may influence the facilitation or inhibition of cues, which may lead to risky sexual behaviors. This is a potential area for intervention by a health psychologist to offer professional advice with respect to understanding the behavior of the client on issues that affect them. This observation concurs with the need of extending personality of health psychologists beyond an individual level and inculcate a sense of understanding other parties; in this case, the patients.
Child upbringing is mainly left to women in the society. Indulgence of modern children in so many activities may lead to clinical stress and probably depression. Since children are engaged in formal curricula and extra curricula activities that consume most of their time to the extent that they have no time to play in the neighborhood. They have normal class activities in school followed by a series of school games afterwards. Furthermore, parents enroll their children in other activities to improve their talents and skills. Another problem is that parents too are engaged in their own duties and this limits their time with the kids. The young people are overworked and as a result, the mother is also overwhelmed with family matters. These kinds of engagements are not meaningful because to the development of the child and the effectiveness of the parents to perform their home obligations.
This scenario creates an avenue for children to engage in peer-related activities because they spend more time with their peers than they spend with their parents. The young people become vulnerable to engage in alcohol drinking at an early age, which may compromise their future development. Before any intervention program is initiated, a psychologist ought to know that understanding teenagers’ alcoholic behavior is a psychological problem. This can be resolved via Cognitive Behavior Therapy, (CBP). CBT offers special enunciation to teenage urge for drink and permissive beliefs among other issues. For an affected teen, an open discussion would lead to the unveiling the possible cause alcoholism and how it encourages sexually risky behaviors.
Alcohol addiction in teenagers and its negative health consequences have been bolstered by Butler (2006), “47 percent of those who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 14 become alcohol dependent at some time in their lives, compared with 9 percent of those who wait at least until age 21.” A health psychology must be in a professional position to gauge the risks involved when a teenager becomes a victim of alcohol addiction. This addiction according to laboratory investigations reveals that it can cause brain damage. In addition, addiction to alcohol is the root cause of heavy drinking or binge drinking among teenagers. Heavy drinking is potential risk factor that makes the teens to be susceptible to sexually transmitted infections. The problem of heavy drinking is a societal issue given that it causes health implications that health psychologist must be well acquitted with. A research in Australia, found out that 10% of teens drink beyond the recommended four regular drinks in one session of drinking per week (Better Health Channel, 2012). In addition, the Institute of Alcohol Studies (n.d) found out that “large English survey found that over 5% of 14-15 year olds, and just under 10% of 15-16 year olds reported exceeding the maximum limits of regular consumption recommended for adults” (p. 17).
It is not only alcohol that makes children vulnerable to risky sexual behaviors. According to Guilamo-Ramos, Jaccard and Dittus (2008), study carried out among the inner-city populations of the African Americans revealed that mothers were unwilling to discuss their children’s sexual issues due to embarrassment. This is an indication that moral well-being and astute guidance that parents ought to provide is compromised by self-esteem, reservation of parental image, and the expectations of instilling mature thoughts on sex matters in school-going children. As an intervention measure, health psychologists should understand this position of parents and their inadequacy to address sexual issues that affect children. Intervention programs call for the understanding the differences that children and their parents experience before initiating a working behavior therapy. One way of doing this would be “Giving parents a general sense of self-confidence also could be useful, and there are a plethora of strategies for doing so” (Guilamo-Ramos et al., 2008, p. 767).
There is a low correlation between the manners in which adolescents respond to their parents’ maternal communication report considering the frequency of interaction (Guilamo-Ramos et al., 2008). Females approach, teenage conversation on sex with different motives and point of reference depending on age of the teenagers call for professional and personality in health psychology for effective health care intervention programs. This literature review has identified the varied issues that affect patients who seek health care services on sex-related issues. Hence, for a high degree of professionalism, a health psychologist should possess academic qualities and enhance service delivery by developing personality to cater for the Level 2 and Level 3 differences. It is therefore true that when a health psychologist lacks the ability to identify personality differences then functionality fidelity is compromised. The use of sophisticated field-based interventions makes a deeper understanding of personality issues and the health care services in the society in order to boost clinical practice. Finally, personality differences of patients can be studied using the risk of alcohol consumption to risky sexual intercourse.