Clatterbridge Private Clinic provides access to a clinical psychologist for cancer patients

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Cancer patients at a world class clinic in Merseyside are being offered access to a leading clinical psychologist to help them deal with the emotional impact of the disease. Clatterbridge Private Clinic in Wirral, a joint venture partner of the renowned Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, is working with Dr Helen Beesley, a chartered clinical psychologist and an expert in the effects of serious health conditions on emotional wellbeing.

Having qualified in 2004, Dr Beesley was, for several years, a key member of a pioneering team in cancer services at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.  She led the development of a psychology service in the Breast Unit, which further expanded to provide a psychology service for patients affected by other types of cancer.

This innovative service, with its roots in both the hospital and the University of Liverpool, offered support to cancer patients across the city, as well as conducting vital research, including a study looking at when patients want to be offered psychological support.

Dr Beesley will now be offering her skills and experience to patients at the Clatterbridge Private Clinic, both in Wirral and at the new clinic that is set to open in Liverpool city centre in 2020.

Emotional effects

“It is important to reassure patients, and those close to them, that to experience a range of strong feelings can be natural at any stage; whether that be around diagnosis, dealing with treatment or on hearing difficult news,” said Dr Beesley.

“Many people find that with the help of family and friends and the support of the clinicians looking after them that they can find a way through.  Other people might not have a lot of support. Even when they do, some people find that even with people around them who care, the emotional effects are difficult to deal with and specialist psychological support can be helpful.”

The language of warfare

“For some patients, the help of a clinical psychologist will offer significant benefits,” she added. “When people talk about cancer, often the language of warfare is used. People talk about ‘fighting’ the disease or winning ‘the battle’.

“This language can make sense for many patients and might give them a  helpful way to approach all they are dealing with.  For others, it may be that they feel a burden or responsibility to appear ‘strong’ or stoical in front of family and friends, but how they actually feel inside may be very different.

“The main thing to remember,” Dr Beesley added, “is that everyone is different, with their own unique set of circumstances and their own values and priorities.

This is the starting point for any psychological therapy with Helen and she helps each person to work on what’s important for them.  “Therapy is a collaborative process and we work together.”

Treatment process

One of the aims of the research carried out by Dr Beesley and the team at the Royal was to identify the times when people are more likely to want and need psychological support. She said that sometimes patients might prefer to focus on the medical appointments and treatment and put the emotional issues to one side. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

“The support is not just for people during their treatment, or dealing with bad news,” said Dr Beesley, “there is also a need for support for those who are recovering or are in remission and who are wanting to move on with life; they may need help in doing that.

“I have worked with many people affected by cancer and have seen the way that therapy can be helpful. It is a real privilege to support people at such a challenging time in their lives.

“Christmas time, in particular, can be challenging for many of us with added pressures, both financially and emotionally, and that can certainly be the case when dealing with cancer.”

All people affected by cancer should have access to specialist psychological support if they need it and Helen is pleased to be able to provide this service to the Clatterbridge Private Clinic.

Related read: Clatterbridge kicks-starts transformation of cancer care in Merseyside

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