PhD in Psychology: Health Psychology Program

* The Psychology department is not currently accepting applications to the Health Psychology PhD program. The information below is provided for reference purposes only. The Psychology department is accepting applications for the Terminal Master of Science Program in Health Psychology (please see

Health psychology, which is concerned with the psychological variables that influence physical health and illness, has become a dominant force in the health sciences, a field to which social psychological theories and research have much to offer. The health psychology doctoral program offers training in research and theories relevant to health promotion, stress and its management, the patient in the treatment setting, management of chronic illness, and causes and consequences of health disorders such as anxiety, coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis. This doctoral program is appropriate for students planning independent applied research careers in health settings and related fields. Current research topics include health disparities, gender and health, aging, health education, eHealth, patient advocacy and self-care behaviors, the effects of stress and mechanisms of coping with it, risk perception, complementary interventions, and pediatric conditions and pain. Research is conducted in the laboratory as well as in clinical and field settings and many of the faculty have strong ties to the Milwaukee community.

The Health Psychology program follows an apprenticeship model in which the student is exposed to individualized research experiences within the laboratories of one or more faculty members. This research training is accompanied by an integrated concentration of courses and seminars that support development of a representative expertise in the biopsychosocial model of health. Specific patterns of study vary, depending on student’s particular interests as well as those of his or her major professor.

The Goals and Objectives of our program are as follows:

1) Prepare students to serve as consumers and producers of research in health psychology

2) Prepare students for entry-level evidence-based behavioral medicine and applied health interventions

  1. Students will develop an understanding of and ability to implement the multidimensional skill set required to conduct evidence-based interventions across a range of presenting problems, populations, and settings.
  2. Students will demonstrate professional values, attitudes, interpersonal competencies, and professionalism.

3) Prepare students to effectively consider and practice appropriate ethical behavior in research and application

4) Prepare students to understand and demonstrate sensitivity to diversity/multicultural considerations relevant to health psychology.


Students majoring in Health Psychology complete two minors. The minor areas cannot be the same as the major area. Available areas for the minor are Neuroscience, Cognition and Perception, Developmental Psychology, Quantitative Methods, and Psychopathology. Each minor consists of two to three courses, depending on the area.

Statistics requirement

Students complete the two-semester introductory statistics sequence (Psychology 510 and 610).

Breadth requirement

Students take at least one course in an area other than their major and minor areas.

Master’s Thesis

The student, under the direction of his or her major professor, must develop an acceptable thesis based on empirical research. Candidates must pass an oral examination in defense of the thesis. Doctoral students must earn the M.S. within three years of enrolling (by March 10 of their third year for most favorable consideration within the teaching assistant priority system).

Note: Students who, upon admission, already have a master’s degree from a department of psychology that included an empirically based master’s thesis are exempt from the requirement of having to earn the M.S. at UWM. However, students admitted with a master’s degree in psychology that did not include a thesis must complete a thesis at UWM.

Doctoral Preliminary Examination

To advance to doctoral candidacy, students must pass a preliminary examination in the health psychology area after they earn the M.S., and within five years of enrolling.


Candidates must write an empirically-based dissertation that demonstrates the ability to formulate a research topic in the area of health psychology and pursue an independent and original investigation. Candidates must pass an oral examination in defense of the dissertation. Students must pass the dissertation defense and earn the PhD within seven years of enrolling.

The Faculty

The health psychology faculty include core faculty (Professors Raymond Fleming, Marcellus Merritt, and Diane Reddy) and affiliated faculty (Professors Shawn Cahill, W. Hobart Davies, and Krista Lisdahl.)  See the individual faculty bios for more details on their respective research programs. Additionally, other faculty in psychology may serve as advisors.

For Further Information

For information about the health psychology PhD program, please contact Professor Raymond Fleming (