people whose medical conditions affect their
or sexual development'
web page has been prepared for people who have a medical condition that affects
their reproductive system or sexual development and who are considering
consulting a clinical psychologist. It provides the answers to some of the most
commonly asked questions about clinical psychology.
are clinical psychologists?
the UK, clinical psychologists most commonly work in health centres, clinics and
hospitals. They are not medical doctors and do not prescribe drugs. Instead they
use their knowledge of behaviour, emotions and thinking, to assist people who
are having difficulties. In the medical context, such difficulties might be to
do with managing the social implications of living with a particular condition,
or complex decision-making processes about some medical treatments.
become a clinical psychologist in the UK, it is necessary to study for a general
degree in psychology first. Graduates are usually required to get work
experience in research or clinical settings. If on the basis of their general
degree and subsequent work experience they are selected for accredited training,
they will go through another three years of full-time training in clinical
psychology leading to a professional doctorate. This qualifies them to practise
independently in health care contexts.
Trainee clinical psychologists are usually salaried employees of a health authority. They carry out consultations under regular supervision.
might a clinical psychologist assist you?
clinical psychologist may simply, but importantly, provide an opportunity to
talk and think about things that are unclear or worrying. They would also
discuss with you different ways of understanding or interpreting your situation
or managing disclosure.
Many people are already aware that psychologists work with problems such as low mood, stress, anxiety, bereavement, but fewer people are aware of the fact that psychological approaches can be applied by individuals in practical ways, e.g. to follow a programme to make some lifestyle changes, or to increase personal independence or social skills, or to overcome avoidance, and so on.
happens when you attend a meeting with the psychologist?
will typically meet for about 50 minutes and have the opportunity to talk about
your situation and to ask questions. The psychologist may also ask about other
aspects of your life so as to get a more complete picture.
the end of the meeting, the psychologist will discuss with you whether or not
further sessions are likely to be useful. If further sessions are agreed, a
particular type of approach or therapy might be recommended, based on your needs
and the resources available. This may take the form of one to one sessions, or
work that includes your partner or family, or a place in a group for people with
Meetings may be weekly, fortnightly or monthly but often the intervals vary. Early on you would discuss with the psychologist roughly how long the sessions would continue, and you are of course free to end the sessions at any time if you wish.
the down side?
are no quick fixes and this can be disappointing. Furthermore, some things in
life cannot be changed, and sometimes it is other people or society that need to
change. But it is possible to learn to live more comfortably with yourself, and
to make the most of what can be changed, with encouragement and feedback from
another person who is familiar with your history and your current situation.
ideas might make you uncomfortable at first, but in time they can lead to a
greater sense of control over aspects of our lives. Learning to think about
yourself or your situation differently may mean not being able to behave in the
same old ways, so alternatives would have to be considered. For example you may
become more uncomfortable about avoiding aspects of life and find yourself
having to contemplate taking some risk to incorporate new experiences into your
order to change the way you think or feel about any situation e.g. to feel more
in control or to behave differently in situations, you may be asked to do some
work between sessions and this requires effort from you. However any task is
always agreed beforehand so you are in control of the timing and the nature of
Important personal changes take time, perhaps a lifetime. The reality of service provisions means that it is sometimes only possible to partially address the problems through therapy. Do share any feeling of frustration, your psychologist would be sympathetic to this.
would you know that it was helping?
expect to feel dramatically better right away. Some people do, because being
listened to and being understood can bring a huge sense of relief. If that
happens, donít be surprised when the dramatic
effect does not continue. It may simply mean that
you are beginning to get into the nuts and bolts of the difficulties.
you should expect to:
If you donít feel as if you are getting much out of your sessions, try and talk it over with your psychologist and if things donít change, perhaps the timing is not right or perhaps someone else is better equipped to assist you.
information that you provide is confidential. However a clinical psychologist
would routinely write to the referrer (usually a doctor from the clinic) to
summarise the outcome of the referral. If you have queries about confidentiality
do discuss this with the psychologist. Your psychologist would take action only
if there were a serious risk of harm either to yourself or other people. If this
were the case you would, if at all possible, be notified that confidentiality
was to be broken.
if you require more general or enduring psychological support?
you have general difficulties that require more sustained input from a generic
mental health practitioner, you could try and access help through your GP, your
specialist may want to provide a summary for your GP to aid referral processes.
There are tremendous local variations in service availability. Some GPs have a
counsellor or psychologist attached to the practice, though again therapy tends
to be available for a short time only. Some GPs refer to the local community
team (CMHT). Your local CMHT is probably made up of psychiatrists, community
nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists and
you are considering private therapy such as psychoanalytic therapy which tends
to be for the longer term, be sure to see an accredited and experienced
practitioner - donít forget that you are entitled to ask the practitioner for
their credentials. Much of the information relating to what you can expect
should also apply to therapists other than clinical psychologists.
who are not familiar with your particular medical condition can still offer
valuable help. You can always send in some information about your condition
first. If you are considering a referral to another practitioner, remember that
there is a waiting time, so donít leave it to the last minute to get referred.
Dr. Lih-Mei Liao MSc PhD AFBPsS
Honorary Senior Lecturer
© Dr. Lih-Mei Liao 2003 (AHN - Psychology Version 2)
This Page was updated 30-Apr-2006
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