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Health Psychology Track

Specific objectives

The goal of the health psychology track is to advance the development of the intern as a competent health services psychologist through enhancement of core skills and abilities, as well as application of skills and abilities to the inpatient and outpatient medical setting. The specific objectives are to:

  • Improve knowledge and skill in diagnostic evaluation, intervention, and consultation
  • Increase facility in use of current science to inform clinical practice and clinical practice to inform scientific endeavors
  • Increase knowledge of psychological issues and interventions in health and illness


The health psychology track interweaves core clinical rotations with health didactics. Each intern completes the four required clinical rotations:

  • Supportive Oncology
  • Rehabilitation Psychology
  • Outpatient Psychotherapy/Behavioral Medicine (OPS/BM)
  • Sleep Disorders

The Outpatient Psychotherapy/Behavioral Medicine is a year-long rotation consisting of 25% of the intern's clinical time. The Supportive Oncology, Rehabilitation Psychology, and Sleep Disorders rotations occur for 4-month trimesters consisting of 75% of the intern's clinical time. Order of the rotations is decided in discussion with the director of health psychology training prior to the start of the training year.

Daily activities of the intern are designed to integrate all experiences necessary to achieve goals for internship. On all rotations, the intern functions as a full member of that clinical service, thus assuming the same range of responsibilities as supervisors, at the appropriate level of autonomy for each intern. The intern participates in all aspects of evaluation and treatment of the patient, receiving new patients as well as carrying an ongoing caseload. Activities include interviewing and testing; writing reports, consultations and treatment summaries; written and verbal communication with referral sources and other professionals; "curbside" consultation; participation in unit and/or clinic patient staffings and family meetings; facilitation of support groups and presentation at rounds and clinical conferences. The intern and supervisor monitor the workload to meet intern training goals and abilities.

Program description

Supportive Oncology

Supervisors: Teresa Deshields, PhD (Director), Lauren Rynar, PhD, Yasmin Asvat, PhD, Patricia Fank, PsyD

Supportive Oncology is a comprehensive suite of services designed to improve the quality of life, quality of care, and outcomes for patients with cancer. Supportive Oncology services are integrated into the Rush University Cancer Center and are designed specifically to enhance the health and well-being of our patients and their caregivers. We work at the intersection of physical, psychological, social, and behavioral aspects of the cancer experience for both patients and caregivers across disease sites and across the cancer continuum (from prevention through end of life). The mission of the supportive oncology program is to: 1) decrease distress and improve quality of life using evidence-informed practices; 2) connect people with the resources they need; and 3) decrease symptom burden associated with cancer or its treatment.

The Psychosocial Oncology team helps to accomplish this mission via the delivery of consultation, liaison, evaluation, and psychotherapy services in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. Residents will apply assessment and treatment skills to problems such as pain, sleep difficulties, nausea, altered mental status, and nonadherence as well as more generalized adjustment disorders, depression, anxiety, end of life issues, disease-specific quality of life concerns, providing support to patient’s caregivers, and promoting communication with other providers and among teams.​ ​ Residents will work closely with other Supportive Oncology providers (psychiatry, chaplaincy, dietetics, Chinese medicine, social work) and with medical teams.   

Rehabilitation Psychology

Supervisors: Jay Behel, PhD (Director), Susan Buehler, PhD, Jamie Cvengros, PhD, Erin Emery-Tiburcio, PhD, Abigail Hardin, PhD, Christina Khou, PhD, Laurin Mack, PhD

This inpatient rotation applies core skills to training in (a) psychological and cognitive evaluation and treatment of acutely and chronically ill adults; and (b) the role of the psychologist in acute rehabilitation settings. All patient consultations include assessment of cognitive and psychological status. Based upon the evaluation, tailored psychological interventions are implemented. Primary medical diagnoses include stroke and other neurological disorders, amputation, recent cardiac or orthopedic surgery and cancer, although the majority of patients have multiple medical conditions. Patients also present with a range of psychological problems including depression, anxiety, PTSD and bereavement.  Pain management and other health behaviors also are typical foci of treatment.  Residents work primarily on three 14-bed inpatient rehabilitation units and function as an integral part of the interprofessional team, consulting with rehabilitation staff and participating in patient care conferences and family meetings.

Outpatient Psychotherapy/Behavioral Medicine

Supervisors: Joyce Corsica, PhD (Director), Lauren Bradley, PhD, John Burns, PhD, Mackenzie Kelly, PhD, Megan Hood, Ph.D, Nicole Heath, PhD, Natalie Stevens, PhD

The Outpatient Psychotherapy/Behavioral Medicine rotation focuses on the evaluation and treatment of a wide variety of psychological and health-related issues in medical center patients. Typical presenting problems include depression, anxiety, adjustment to medical conditions (e.g., chronic pain), adherence to recommendations for medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, weight management), women's health issues, weight management, stress management, and anger management. Treatment approaches are empirically validated and include cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, psychodynamic, and client-centered treatment modalities. 

Optional areas of focus within Outpatient Psychotherapy/Behavioral Medicine

  • Obesity management: Specialty services for bariatric surgery patients include pre-surgical evaluations and cognitive-behavioral therapy for pre-surgical preparation and post-surgical adjustment. We also offer cognitive-behavioral treatment of obesity and/or disordered eating for non-surgical and medical weight management patients.
  • Women’s behavioral health: Specialty services for the evaluation and treatment of issues associated with female reproductive and sexual health including premenstrual mood changes, pregnancy-related depression or anxiety, postpartum adjustment, and mood changes that occur with menopause.
  • Behavioral health in diabetes program: Individual psychotherapy for patients with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes with a range of presenting problems, including concerns related to mood management, weight management, and adjustment to diabetes.
  • Group therapy: Dialectical behavior therapy groups are available on an ongoing basis and occasionally additional groups, such as a stress and coping or stress eating group, are available as well. Interns may observe or co-lead groups with a faculty member or postdoctoral fellow. 

Sleep Disorders

Supervisors: James Wyatt, PhD, D. ABSM (Director), Liz Culnan, PhD (Associate Director)

The Rush Sleep Disorders Center (accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine) is a diagnostic and treatment facility for persons with sleep disturbances. Within the Center, the Behavioral Sleep Medicine (BSM) service provides health psychology residents with an opportunity to gain experience in diagnostic procedures for the sleep disorders, to learn cognitive and behavioral treatment of sleep disorders, and to understand the role that health psychologists play within an interdisciplinary sleep center. The service is primarily outpatient and includes assessment and treatment for patients of all ages. The initial evaluation includes a complete biopsychosocial clinical interview to determine the scope of the sleep problem and differential diagnoses. Following the initial evaluation, patients may have further diagnostic workup in the sleep laboratory or with out-of-center sleep testing, have wrist actigraphic estimation of long-term sleep-wake patterns, or be referred out to other specialists.  Treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia, motivational interviewing and/or desensitization treatment for positive airway pressure treatment of sleep disordered breathing, and coping with chronic sleep disorders. The Sleep Center team includes sleep specialists with backgrounds in health psychology, internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, pediatrics, otolaryngology, and dentistry.  Team members participate in weekly new patient case rounds, journal clubs, and sleep grand rounds.

Elective Health Rotations

Elective rotations provide the flexibility for each intern to develop a training program that best meets his/her professional goals. Electives are highly flexible, but for example, may be a two - to five-hour per week experience that lasts two to five months. Interns are able to begin electives after they have successfully negotiated the first quarter of the training year. Eligible interns select or propose electives in consultation with the training director and the faculty member overseeing the elective. Electives may have a clinical or a research emphasis.

Health Psychology Seminars and Supervision

Each of the four health track rotations have scheduled weekly meetings in which concepts, research, and skills training pertinent to the functioning of a psychologist in the specialty area are covered. These required clinical case conferences, journal clubs, walk rounds, and didactic sessions enrich the intern's face-to-face clinical experiences in the rotation. The seminars provide opportunities for advanced-level skill building in the areas of assessment, intervention, and consultation, and increase the intern's body of knowledge regarding medical conditions and psychological issues germane to the particular patient population seen.

Supervision is the critical component of the internship training experience. Across the year, the intern will work with the majority of the health track supervisors in order to be exposed to multiple orientations and areas of expertise. The intern has at least one assigned individual supervisor for each rotation. Supervisor and intern meet at least weekly for regularly scheduled individual supervision or as frequently as necessary. Supervisor orientation is primarily cognitive-behavioral with considerable use of interpersonal and dynamic approaches as well.