Prof. Massimo Miglioretti
Department of Psychology
University of Milano-Bicocca
Piazza Ateneo Nuovo, 1
20126 Milano (italy)
Even if its “official” birth is recent and it can be considered still a “young” discipline as compared with European and north American HP, a specific “Italian” experience of health psychology can be identified, and its roots can be traced back both to scientific/academic developments occurred in previous decades (medical psychology and psychosomatic medicine) and to the organization of health services (the introduction of the National Health Service in 1978).
Over the last two decades Italian Health Psychology has grown and expanded steadily and several research groups are now active, representing a range of theoretical approaches.
Italy hosted two EHPS Conferences, in Florence (1999) and Pisa (2009).
The Italian Health Psychology Society (Società Italiana di Psicologia della Salute, SIPSa) was founded in 1997, thanks to the initiative of a group of psychologists, including academics and professionals from different areas. As reported in its Statute, its aims are “to promote and develop empirical and theoretical research in Health Psychology in Italy” and “to facilitate the exchange of information amongst its members and members of other national and international societies”. Instruments for the achievement of such aims include the organization of biennial Congresses (Milan,1998; Orvieto, 2000; Florence, 2002; Naples, 2004; Cesena, 2006; Rovigo, 2008; Bergamo, 2010), the publication of a Journal (Psicologia della salute) and the promotion of exchanges and of training initiatives. The Society has a website, including also a link to the EHPS and information on its Annual Conferences. Moreover, it publishes a Newsletter, available also on the website.
Over the ten years of its life the Society grew very rapidly and important objectives have been reached. The number of members of the Society, at the end of 2010, was 150, and many more researchers and professionals attend Congresses and initiatives within health psychology and publish their work on the official Journal.
Several members of the Society have also contributed to international health psychology research.
In 2010, the EHPS counted 17 members from Italy, and many of them attend EHPS National Conferences.
Link to webpage: http://www.psicologiasalute.org
Education, training and professionalisation:
In Italy, even if Health Psychology courses are offered by most Universities, access to a specific training in Health Psychology is possible after obtaining the degree in Psychology. Psychologists can currently choose amongst four Schools of Specialization in Health Psychology (University of Rome “La Sapienza”, University of Turin, University of Bologna, University of Padua), all of which have been established during late nineties. About 150 psychologists are currently receiving their five-year training in Health Psychology, after which they can register as psychotherapists.
Considering theoretical and research developments, Clinical Health Psychology is a traditional and productive area in Italy. Most significant contributions of Italian clinical health psychology focus on basic psychological and psycho-physiologic mechanisms affecting health and well being, doctor-patient relationship, quality of health care.
A Social Psychological approach to health also has developed since the beginnings, focusing on issues such as psychosocial determinants of health behaviors, social representations of health and illness, communication in health, participation and empowerment of citizens with respect to decisions concerning health, development and evaluation of health promotion interventions.
Some more new perspectives are also growing; among these, Community Health Psychology and Occupational Health Psychology. During the last fifteen years, several social and community psychologists working on health issues have developed a body of research (e.g. on psychosocial and contextual influences on health and illness) and approaches to prevention and health promotion that are consistent with the Community health psychology approaches and its typical methodological approaches (e.g. participatory action research). Among the most interesting areas of research is health promotion in educational and school contexts, where a strong emphasis has been put not only on the promotion of individual competences and skills (e.g. associated with adequate health behaviors) but also on the development of school policies in order to enhance the construction of health promoting school environments.
Also a “critical” tradition of health psychology can be found in Italy, associated with the use of qualitative methods; many epistemological arguments and theoretical models typical of critical approaches have been widely discussed and adopted, even though less awareness seems to be present about the international developments of this area.
Research groups in health psychology are present in most Universities and within health services. Besides research contributions published in national and international journals, some textbooks have been produced by Italian health psychologists during the last two decades.