Since its inception, the discipline of psychology has been concerned with aspects of health. For example, a number of early figures in the field of psychology–e.g., Helmholtz, James, Wundt–were initially trained in medicine. However, the predominant focus in psychology up until recently has been on mental rather than physical health. In the years after World War II, a small, but increasing, number of psychologists began conducting research on phenomena other than strictly mental health concerns.
Notable among this work was Neal Miller’s pioneering research on the conditioning of physiological processes and the resulting flurry of interest in biofeedback. Another example is the development of the Health Belief Model by Godfrey Hochbaum, S. Stephen Kegeles, Howard Leventhal, and Irwin Rosenstock–four psychologists in the U. S. Public Health Service who were trying to understand why people were not becoming vaccinated against tuberculosis.
In addition, more and more psychologists were being employed by Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, as well as the Veterans Administration and hospitals specialing in acute and rehabilitative medicine. These psychologists and their -based colleagues, originally trained in clinical, counseling, experimental, or social psychology, applied their favorite theories and methods to phenomena that had as much to do with the physical as the mental aspects of health and illness, including the interaction between the brain and the body. Sometimes these theories and methods carried over quite naturally to the domain of physical health. Other times, however, new paradigms needed to be developed, such as the biopsychosocial model which was popularized in 1977 by a physician, George Engel, but which first appeared in an article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology twenty-four years earlier (Guze, Matarazzo, & Saslow, 1953).
Out of all of this activity emerged the Division of Health Psychology of the American Psychological Association (APA). Today, Division 38 can truly be characterized as being “healthy and wealthy,” but the gestation of this organization was not without its attendant labor pains. The remainder of this chapter tells the story of how Division 38 was birthed and how it has developed over the past 18 years. The inclusion of “Weiss” in the title, “Healthy, Wealthy, and Weiss,” will become apparant as the story unfolds.