Clinical Health Psychology

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY-1394/2023
  • Departments: Psychology Services
  • Last Updated: 30 November 2023


This service works with people living with long-term health conditions to help them to manage health related issues. The clinical psychologists within the Department of Psychological Services work alongside the medical teams. A referral to see a clinical psychologist in the team does not mean that the team believe you are not coping or that the problems are ‘fake’ or ‘all in your head’. As a service, the clinical psychologists aim to work with the psychological and emotional impact that the health condition has on your life, to reduce distress and to improve your overall wellbeing.

The aim of clinical health psychology

Common reactions to the experience of long-term health conditions such as feeling frustrated, upset, low in mood, worried or anxious are normal and understandable. Some people find that additional help in navigating this journey can be beneficial for continuing to move forwards in spite of the changes within your life. The aim of individual psychology appointments is to help you to understand the difficulties that the health condition can bring to your life and to develop strategies which help to manage now and in the future.

You and your clinical psychologist will agree the number of sessions you may need to work towards your goals during the first session. Throughout the work you complete together, it will be expected that you attend and engage in each of the sessions. An important part of psychological work, and where the majority of positive and lasting change happens, is when you try out new ideas and skills between sessions following the conversations with your clinical psychologist. It is important that these skills are practised in your day-to-day life, so that you can build motivation and confidence to continue implementing them yourself once your sessions come to an end.

Clinical psychologists are trained to use a combination of evidence-based psychological approaches to meet your needs, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT). The clinical psychologist will discuss these different approaches with you to come to a shared understanding of what might be most beneficial.

Why might clinical health psychology be for me?

Clinical psychologists for long-term health conditions can help with a variety of problems, including but not exclusive to:

  • Improving understanding of the health condition and how to manage it
  • Developing strategies to cope with stress and difficult emotions such as fear, frustration and sadness that are caused by, or contribute towards, the health condition
  • Processing a new diagnosis or changes in the diagnosis
  • Adjusting to change of role(s) due to the health condition
  • Exploring difficulties within work, home life and relationships due to the impact of the health condition
  • Exploring how historical and current life factors may be influencing coping with the health condition
  • Managing challenges with medication
  • Helping you to lead a life that is as normal as possible; identifying what is important and helping you to engage with this at a manageable pace

Who, when and where?

  • You will see one of the clinical psychologists working within the health speciality from which you were referred and usually this will be the same person at each appointment. From time to time, there may be clinical psychologists in training with the service who are also capable of carrying out the identified psychological work, under the supervision of a qualified clinical psychologist.
  • Normally you will have 6–10 sessions with the clinical psychologist, and each session can be up to an hour long. The course of sessions may be shorter or longer depending on your individual needs. These sessions are usually face-to-face and will generally occur on a fortnightly basis on weekdays at the Queen’s Centre at Castle Hill Hospital. It is recognised that it can be difficult for some people to attend regular in-person appointments at the hospital and this can be discussed further with the psychologist.
  • You may decide at any point during your psychological work that you do not wish to continue. This is something that should be discussed with your psychologist but it is ultimately your decision and this decision would be supported.

What happens when I am referred?

Clinical psychologists work closely with other professionals within what is called a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT). The other professionals involved in your care might include consultants, specialist nurses, pharmacists and other allied health professionals. We aim to provide a holistic or ‘whole body’ approach to your care and there is good evidence that medical care is more effective when you are able to be supported and work together with a wider team.

Any professional involved in your care at the hospital can refer to a clinical psychologist working within the same multi-disciplinary team. A member of the MDT will first identify a potential need for the role of psychology as your care plan. You must have consented to this referral before it is accepted. It is your decision if you wish the referral to be made and you are welcome to ask your referring professional any questions about the service which might help you to make an informed decision about psychological support.

After the referral is received, one of the clinical psychologists within the team will then arrange a convenient time to complete an assessment with you to discuss whether psychological input focused around the health condition is likely to benefit you at this time. They will ask you questions about how your health issues have impacted on your life and explore other background factors such as social history which may help to further understand your current situation. You may wish to bring a family member, friend or carer with you to the appointment. It is up to you if you want them to come into the appointment with you but it can sometimes be helpful to hear things from another person’s perspective, as well as having some time to discuss things individually with the psychologist. We do ask that you do not bring any children with you to the appointments as this may limit your ability to speak freely. We also normally ask for subsequent sessions that you attend alone as it is important that a safe and private space is provided for you to discuss whatever may be troubling you, however this can also be discussed further with your psychologist.

Following the assessment, the clinical psychologist may identify that a short-term course of individual psychological therapy may be beneficial and further appointments will be arranged. Alternatively, it might be identified that a different service would better suit your needs and the psychologist can offer support with further referrals and signposting. For example, if the main source of distress is not related to the health condition but other mental health factors, then a referral to mental health services would be more appropriate. The psychologist can help you get the right support for your own individual circumstances.

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact the Department of Psychological Services on tel no: 01482 461 060/061

Please note that this service cannot provide urgent mental health support. If you require crisis support, we urge you to contact the 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Team which can be found by searching for your postcode on the following website link: In Hull, the contact telephone number is: 0800 138 0990. If you are in imminent danger, phone 999.

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.