Hospital psychology: find out what it is and when it is done

The hospital is a place of healing, but it can contribute to psychic illness. It is in this context that hospital psychologists, mental health professionals who help patients, doctors and nurses work to maintain a certain emotional stability to promote healing.

Want to understand more? Check out the text below!

What is hospital psychology?

Hospital psychology is an area of ​​action for psychology whose objective is to help minimize the psychological distress of patients in the face of the process of illness, hospitalization and recovery.

Physical illness is often a traumatic experience, which can have several psychological consequences. In this way, the hospital psychologist or psychologist helps to treat these effects in order to improve the mental health of the hospitalized person.

It is a kind of preventive work , preventing the suffering resulting from the disease from turning into bigger problems, such as traumas that can influence the development of anxiety and depression .

In more complex cases, care can extend to the patient’s family, who also suffers during the process.

According to the Federal Council of Psychology (CFP), the hospital psychologist or psychologist can perform the following activities:

  • Therapeutic care;
  • Psychotherapeutic groups;
  • Psychoprophylaxis groups (psychological preparation for surgeries);
  • Psychomotricity in a hospital context;
  • Diagnostic evaluation;
  • Psychodiagnosis;
  • Consultancy and interconsulting.

The work can be performed in outpatient clinics, ICUs, emergency care units and wards in general.

In the Federal Council of Psychology, hospital psychology is foreseen as the psychologist’s area of ​​action in Resolution No. 013/2007.

How is a hospital psychology treatment?

Hospital psychology acts in different contexts and, therefore, there is no single experience of treatment with professionals. The way in which care is provided depends a lot on the person to be served.

A pregnant woman may have a more focused attention to issues related to motherhood, while terminally ill patients should receive another type of treatment.

Some of the areas of expertise of the hospital psychologist are:

Psychological assessment of inpatients

Hospitals have many inpatients and not all of them need psychological help. Therefore, the first step in hospital psychology care is to identify those who need such care through a psychological assessment.

The psychologist or psychologist will use interviews and eventually tests or other psychological assessment tools to understand aspects of the patient’s personality and mental state, in order to ascertain whether it is a case of high risk of psychic illness due to physical illness. .

It is worth mentioning that the risk of psychological illness has little to do with somatic disease; there are terminal patients who are mentally supported and healthy, without the need for psychological treatment, while less severe patients may experience anxiety and depression in the face of illness.

It is up to the psychological assessment done properly to show who needs psychological care.

Psychological support to patients and family members

After realizing the need for psychological support, therapists begin to visit the patient frequently to promote this therapeutic moment.

The frequency of visits varies from case to case, and can be every day or a few times a week – depending on the length of stay in the hospital.

The psychologist or psychologist must give a voice to the patient, who can finally talk about his frustrations, his perceptions and hopes about the illness process, which is often ignored in the medical-patient or nurse-patient context.

Listening to the psychologist is impartial, that is, free from judgment, which helps the patient to feel welcomed, heard and respected.

There are also complex diseases that need the help of the family for adaptations, this tends to make the psychologist or psychologist attend to family members as well.

Other cases in which family care occurs are those in which there is a terminal illness or when the patient has been hospitalized for a long time and with an unstable condition, in which there is not much prospect of recovery.

It is worth remembering that, when contacting the family, the hospital psychologist is not authorized to pass on medical data, that is, he cannot give the diagnosis, talk about the condition, communicate death, among others.

Support to health professionals

Not only do patients need psychological help, but also health professionals who work in the hospital. Often, the area of ​​health can seem like an ungrateful profession, considering that there is not always a recovery of the patient despite all efforts.

This lack of results can bring a lot of frustration to professionals, who feel not only overwhelmed, but can also be affected by feelings of ineffectiveness and worthlessness.

The psychological assessment and care process is similar to that performed with patients, but there is also the possibility of more generalized interventions to work with professionals in a particular sector if there is demand.

What is the importance of hospital psychology for patients?

Hospital psychology works a lot with the prevention of psychic illness in patients who are physically ill.

This means that the hospital psychologist works to minimize suffering during the period of hospitalization and the entire process of illness, helping to redefine these moments of his life.

In this way, it is avoided that this period becomes a trauma capable of negatively affecting the patient’s quality of life, even outside the hospital.

What is the difference between hospital psychology and medical psychology?

Medical psychology aims to study human relationships in the medical context , that is, it is a field of study that seeks to understand the psyche of medical students, trained doctors, patients, the relationship between doctor (a), patient and family, among others.

It differs from hospital psychology in that it is not a practice in itself, approaching more than a field of studies whose discoveries can guide the practices of the hospital psychologist or psychologist, who seeks to address the psychological aspects of the illness process.

In summary, hospital psychology is a practice that aims at the psychological treatment of patients and health professionals, while medical psychology is the study of the psychological aspects involved in the context of medicine.


Hospital psychology assists patients and family members in delicate moments, such as hospitalizations or health problems. Through assistance and emotional support, professionals participate in recovery or psychological stability, resulting in well-being and better results in medical treatment.

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