The HIV Psychology Service is part of the Department of Psychological Services based in the Queen’s Centre at Castle Hill Hospital. We offer emotional support across both inpatient and outpatient settings for adults struggling with psychological difficulties linked to their experience of living with HIV. Our aim is to support you to continue to engage fully in a life that does not have to be limited by HIV.
What is HIV?
Living with HIV means that the body’s immune system has become more susceptible to infection and disease but this can be well managed with medication. HIV medical care has advanced significantly since the 1980s and it is now possible to have an undetectable viral load where HIV cannot be transmitted. With early diagnosis and medications taken as prescribed, HIV does not have to impact quality of life or life expectancy.
What is the aim of HIV Psychology?
Learning about a diagnosis of HIV can understandably contribute to feelings of worry and confusion. It is very normal to have lots of questions and for it to take some time to process the news. The HIV Psychology Service is there to support you when newly diagnosed or navigating any changes which have been impacted by HIV. The support from the service is available to help you to understand the meaning of the diagnosis in your life, to refocus on what matters to you and develop strategies for managing now and into the future.
What types of difficulties do you work with within the HIV Psychology Service?
We offer emotional support to patients when HIV has started to have a significant impact on emotional wellbeing and can contribute to difficulties with:
- Low mood
- Adjustment and acceptance
- Disclosure about HIV
- Sexual intimacy in relationships
- Managing medication and/or side effects
- Symptoms of psychological trauma related to the diagnosis of HIV
- HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND)
What support is available from the HIV Psychology Service?
The clinical psychologists in the team can support you with psychoeducation skills to better understand your relationship with HIV and a range of evidence-based psychological interventions, otherwise known as talking therapies. Clinical psychologists are trained to work from a number of different therapy models and can therefore use an integrated approach to talking therapy. This allows us to work flexibly so that we can draw on different approaches depending on what you need and what you want from therapy. We can agree this collaboratively and we work together to find the best way forward. A flexible and skilled application of these psychotherapies can often lead to new understandings and effective solutions in areas of your life where you may currently feel stuck. The main models of therapy utilised within the team are as follows:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Changing the way we think and behave to have a positive impact on our feelings in the present moment.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Developing our potential for a rich, full and meaningful life through working with, not against, the difficulties we have.
Compassion-focused Therapy (CFT)
Working with a member of staff to learn/re-learn to be compassionate towards ourselves and less critical of ourselves.
The clinical psychologists can offer support through individual sessions. The team work closely with HIV Consultants and Specialist Nurses within the Infectious Diseases to offer specialist advice and support.
We also signpost, and we may refer you to other sources of appropriate support such as:
- Religious and spiritual
- Alcohol/drug recovery
- Complex Mental Health needs not related to health condition
How can I access support from the HIV Psychology Service and what happens when we receive a referral?
If you feel that you would benefit from this service, please talk to a member of your hospital care team (e.g. your consultant, clinical nurse specialist etc.) who can give you more information, and make a referral if appropriate.
When you get referred to our service, you will receive a letter to confirm that you have been added to the HIV Psychology waiting list. Following this, a healthcare professional will get in touch over the telephone to arrange an appointment. The first appointment is called an assessment, and it’s generally about getting to know you and asking you to share some details about your experience before, during and after the diagnosis of HIV. During this assessment, the clinician and you can think about your needs and goals, whether therapy will be useful for you, or refer you to other services if they can better meet your needs.
If the HIV Psychology Service is the most appropriate service to meet your current needs, a plan will be made for some time-limited and HIV-specific psychological therapy. Each appointment for psychological therapy usually lasts for up to one hour. How many appointments, and how often they are, will be agreed between you and your therapist to best meet your needs. We offer telephone, video and face-to-face appointments. The clinicians will do their best to offer appointments that are most convenient to you. However, certain therapies may work better in person and therefore you may be asked to come in for a face-to-face appointment.
We may write to your other healthcare professionals, such as your clinical nurse specialist, consultant, and GP to keep them updated about your wellbeing.
Everything discussed is confidential. However, if you mention something that concerns your safety or safety of others, we will need to discuss that with the relevant professionals to keep you safe. If there is a risk of harm to you or others we would need to notify the relevant professionals but we would always try to talk to you first. For more information on this, please refer to our Privacy and Data Protection page.
HIV Psychology Service
Castle Hill Hospital
Call us on 01482461060 or 01482461061
We are open Monday to Friday, 8am – 4pm (closed on bank holidays).
Please note that we are not a crisis service.
A crisis situation may be described as when you or someone that you know has raised concerns that they might be at risk of harming themselves or others. During these situations, it is important to seek help quickly.
If you are an adult in immediate danger of serious harm in a mental health emergency and/or require immediate medical attention, call 999 for an ambulance immediately or go to A&E. The paramedics are trained to deal with crisis situations and can call other professionals as needed.
There are also a number of crisis services throughout the country which are available 24/7 hours a day, 7 days a week for helping you through these difficult situations.
To find your local NHS urgent mental health helpline in England , visit the NHS Service Search or alternatively, contact the telephone lines below.
- In Hull/East Riding (Humber) telephone: 08001380990
- In North East Lincolnshire (NAVIGO) telephone: 01472256256
- In North Lincolnshire (RDaSH) telephone: 08000150211 (North Lincs), 08008048999 (Doncaster), 08006529571 (Rotherham)
- In Lincolnshire (Lincolnshire Partnership) telephone: 08000014331
- In North Yorkshire (TEWV) telephone: 08000516171
For support with mental health needs that are not related to HIV – you can contact your local NHS Talking Therapies for Anxiety and Depression service.
For support with physical health needs, you can contact your GP or call 111 (999 in an emergency).
For financial concerns, you can contact your local Citizens Advice service.
For support with relationship concerns, you can contact your local Relate service. For any concerns around domestic abuse, you can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline (for women – 0808200247) or the Men’s Advice Line on 08088010327.
For support after bereavement, you can contact your local Cruse bereavement service.
For support with alcohol and drugs, you can contact the National Drinks Line on 08081606606 or the National Drugs Line on 03001231110.