Behavioral Medicine Concentration

The concentration in behavioral medicine emphasizes training in clinical health psychology, prevention, program development, consultation and health promotion.

Behavioral medicine is a transdisciplinary field focused on biopsychosocial knowledge and its application to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. It takes a lifespan approach to health and illness, working with children, teens, adults, and older adults, both individually and in groups, and working with racially and ethnically diverse individuals and communities.

Please see the VCU Bulletin for additional degree information.

Research overview

Behavioral medicine faculty are involved in research and have secured external grants from agencies including the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, World Health Organization, U.S. Department of Justice and the Association for Psychological Science. Many students in the concentration are funded by research assistantships on one of these projects.

Regardless of funding source, all students in the behavioral medicine concentration have opportunities to be intensively involved in research from the start of their graduate training. Research interests include the following:

  • African populations and African ways of being in the world (Vivian Afi Dzokoto)
  • Eating disorders and other health problems related to excessive or rigid goal pursuit (Ann Haynos)
  • Classification of mental disorders and mental health professionals’ decision making (Jared Keeley)
  • Behavioral health in primary care and insomnia and health outcomes (Bruce Rybarczyk)
  • Perinatal addiction and comorbid disorders (depression), women's health, and chronic pain and opioid use disorder (Dace Svikis)

Much of this research is conducted in medical settings with various patient populations and is often carried out in conjunction with medical provider collaborators. Many of the behavioral medicine faculty are recognized as national and international experts, have served as associate editors for highly ranked journals, and provide consultation to federal agencies.

Facts and Data

  • Five tenure-track or tenured behavioral medicine concentration faculty
  • 22 graduate students in the behavioral medicine concentration
  • In 2021, faculty were PI on 11 and co-I on 10 ongoing federally funded research grants.
  • Ongoing federally funded training grants from the National Institute of Health where clinical behavioral medicine graduate students are PI.
  • 117 peer-reviewed publications authored by behavioral medicine faculty from 2019 to 2021
  • 100% of behavioral medicine students have matched with APA-accredited internship sites over the past three years

Clinical Training

The training model for behavioral medicine students at VCU is systematic and comprehensive, characterized by exposure to general adult individual therapy followed by on-campus rotations on specialty teams including Primary Care Psychology and culminating in specialized training through off-campus, community-based practicums that involve a variety of settings and patient populations.

As core clinical faculty supervise the on-campus clinics, students quickly discover how research is used to inform clinical practice and gain experience in state-of-the-art, evidence-based treatments. A diverse range of intervention and assessment experiences are offered, including:

  • Treatment for mood, anxiety, adjustment disorders, and eating disorders
  • Brief interventions within the primary care setting
  • Comprehensive assessment and evaluation of psychopathology

The Behavioral Medicine concentration has partnered with several agencies and medical centers within the greater Richmond community to offer students specialized training such as evaluation and treatment of adults with acute or chronic health conditions, and neuropsychological assessment. The breadth and depth of clinical experiences available to doctoral students allows for the development of an individualized training plan to meet a student's unique training goals.