Program goal

The Doctor of Philosophy in Health Psychology offered by VCU is an experimentally oriented program that is designed to train students to contribute to the knowledge of psychological contributions to health and illness via training in basic and clinical research. Students completing the Ph.D. in Health Psychology will not be eligible for licensure. Research in health psychology examines the causes and development of illness, methods to help individuals develop healthy lifestyles to promote good health and prevent illness, the treatment individuals receive for their medical problems, the effectiveness with which individuals cope with and reduce stress and pain, biopsychosocial connections with immune functioning, and factors in the recovery, rehabilitation and psychosocial adjustment of patients with serious health problems. Thus, graduates from the Ph.D. program in Health Psychology are prepared for work in a range of settings including colleges and universities, medical centers, research centers, nonprofit agencies and local, state and national government.

The department maintains laboratory facilities for research in the areas of behavioral assessment, behavioral medicine, developmental, learning, behavioral pharmacology, psychophysiology, psychotherapy process, social perception, social influence and group dynamics. Opportunities for field research also are available in a variety of settings.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the broad field of psychology.
  2. Students will demonstrate their understanding of the models, theories and processes of health psychology.
  3. Students will demonstrate knowledge of the biological, cognitive, attitudinal, social and cultural underpinnings of health.
  4. Students will demonstrate knowledge of primary and secondary prevention of disease in a diverse range of communities and populations.
  5. Students will use scientifically sound research methodologies, univariate and multivariate statistics and ethical practices in their conduct of research. 
  6. Students will adhere to the highest standards of ethics in their research, teaching and applied practice. Students will follow standards set by the university and the American Psychological Association.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.