Professor Jasminka Despot Lucanin, PhD

Department of Psychology
Faculty of Croatian Studies, University of Zagreb
Zagreb, Croatia

Health psychology in Croatia is very well represented in the higher education system, in research and to somewhat lesser extent in practice – both in health system and other areas of psychological work. In all, there are about 220 both clinical and health psychologists employed in Croatia, with majority of clinical psychologists occasionally providing health psychology services.
The courses in health psychology are taught to students of psychology, at all levels – undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate and doctoral. Also, health psychology is taught at higher education institutions to applied health sciences students (since 1986), in undergraduate and graduate (masters`) programs (Croatian higher education system is in accordance with the Bologna Convention). The first text book on health psychology in Croatian language has been published in 1987 (Havelka, M. Health Psychology. Zagreb: Faculty of Medicine, University of Zagreb.

National Associations:

Health psychologists are represented in the Croatian Psychological Chamber (established in 2003), Professional Division of Health Psychology and in the Croatian Psychological Society, Division of Health Psychology (since 1992). Basic information can be found at: Meetings of the Division of Health Psychology of the Croatian Psychological Society are held regularly, four times per year, dealing with professional issues and always including some educational topic. There are some 50 members. Croatian Psychological Society organizes annual conferences. In 2007: 15th Annual Conference of the Croatian Psychological Society was held from 14th-17th November in Cavtat (Dubrovnik). The theme of the Conference was: “Prevention-Rehabilitation—Psychoeducation-Through Interdisciplinarity”. Of more than 400 presentations (oral, posters, workshops, round tables, symposia), majority were from the field of health psychology. In 2008: The field of health psychology was also well represented at the 16th Annual Conference of the Croatian Psychological Society – “Psychology, media, ethics”, held in November, in Porec (Istria). In 2009: 17th Annual Conference of the Croatian Psychological Society – “Responsibility: Personal, Professional and Social”, held in November, in Split. Organized by the Croatian Psychological Chamber, the 2nd Croatian Congress of Applied Psychology – “Health Care of Children and Adolescents”, was held in Opatija, in June 2009. Apart from many presentations, several interesting round tables on health psychology topics were proposed:”Does a child with chronic disease in Croatia have the right to psychological support?”, “Psychological counseling of adolescents – why, when, where and how?”, “Understanding the specificities of adolescence in health care – reality or wish?”, “Physical activity of children and adolescents”, and many more. All participants were eminent colleagues and other professionals from the national and local health care institutions, clinics and universities. Health psychologists in Regional Psychological Societies have also been very active in 2007, in 2008, and in 2009, offering education, counselling, publishing and researching. The “Psychology Week” is a relatively new happening, organized yearly, in March, by the Croatian Psychological Society, throughout Croatia, offering lectures, workshops, presentations of latest achievements, with the aim to promote the profession and role of psychologist among citizens. Division of Health Psychology also participates in the creation of the program. Information on EHPS and its activities are regularly well announced and materials disseminated at all relevant Croatian psychology web-sites and conferences.


Education, training and professionalisation:

Apart from formal education programs, there have been several continuing education courses and training seminars offered mainly by the Croatian Psychological Society, Division of Health Psychology. Department of Health Psychology, University of Applied Health Sciences in Zagreb held a series of training seminars in 2007, for different health professionals with the aim to improve their communication with patients and clients. Seminars were organized in collaboration with the Croatian Ministry of Health and Social Care, Croatian Nursing Association in Neurology, Croatian Nurses’ Association and Croatian Nurses’ Chamber. In 2008, and in 2009: Continuing education seminars, lectures and workshops for both psychologists and for health professionals were organized in collaboration with the same organizations as in previous year. Professionalization In Croatia, professionalization and integration of psychologists into the health system is well recognized, although there is constant effort to improve their status and re-evaluate their services. However, a lot has yet to be achieved regarding the status of health psychologists, especially their differentiation from clinical psychologist, in terms of job positions and acknowledgment as a separate field of expertise. In 2007: Members of both the Health Psychology Professional Division and the Clinical Psychology Professional Division of the Croatian Psychological Chamber put in a lot of efforts to create a document on work standards for health and clinical psychologists. The aims of work standards are to standardize and equalize the quality of psychologists` work, improve the work quality, develop general competencies and responsibilities, ensure optimal work conditions and regulate the value (in terms of duration, necessary materials and costs) of different services offered by health and clinical psychologists. The areas of work include prevention, psychodiagnostic evaluation, psychological treatments and research. In 2008: The most significant achievement was the official announcement of the Work Standards for Clinical and Health Psychologists that have been passed by the Board of the Croatian Psychological Chamber on 16th May 2008. In 2009: Croatian Psychological Society, after the initiative of the Divisions of Clinical and of Health Psychology, at the 17th Annual Conference, proposed the formation of work group to prepare a proposal for the Croatian Ministry of Health and Social Care regarding the status of clinical and health psychologists, based on the Law on Health Care, which defines who the health workers are, and which considers psychologists as non-health workers (in two different articles). The goal of the work group, together with the representative of the Croatian Psychological Chamber, would be to talk to the Ministry representatives, and negotiate the conditions that would ensure better material and professional status of psychologists in health care system. This includes adjustment of the services norms – better definition and differentiation of the services provided and their financial value. The number of psychologists in health care institutions is decreasing while the objective need for them is increasing.



In spite of quite a small number of health psychologists in Croatia, there is quite a lot of research done in different fields of health psychology, the results of which have been published in Croatian and international journals.