Parenting can be challenging with many demands and decisions. Parenting a child with a congenital heart condition can add extra worries and things to think about. Often parents tell us that finding out their child has a heart problem can be a huge shock and there are often tricky thoughts and feelings, which can be different for everyone. How people cope can change over time too.
Families often tell us that there are times when they feel that things are going well and they are OK. At other times things can feel difficult, for example when it is time for their child to come for surgery, or when they face a new ‘milestone’ in their lives, like starting school. These ‘ups and downs’ are a normal part of life, but it can sometimes be difficult to manage the extra challenges that life throws at us, whilst looking after ourselves and our families.
The Psychology and Counselling team can help families to think about how they manage when things are tricky. Often feeling more worried or anxious when something like surgery is coming up, or your child is unwell, is a very normal reaction to a challenging time.
Following the recent changes to the advice around coronavirus, our psychology team have some fantastic advice for families and patients. Please have a look. If you need anything further there are links on how to contact us lower on this page.
Who is part of the team?
· Dr Sara Matley, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
· Dr Kat Bilbrough, Principal Clinical Psychologist
· Dr Rachel Avison, Senior Clinical Psychologist
· Dr Antonia Cooper, Senior Clinical Psychologist
· Dr Bronwyn Stirzaker, Clinical Psychologist
· Mrs Jayne Slack, Senior Counsellor
· Mrs Sandie Allison, Counsellor
Sometimes we also have Psychologists in Clinical Training working with us for short periods of time. Our trainees are often on placement with us in their final year of training and are supervised by a Senior Psychologist in the team.
What and how can we help?
We see lots of different people, of all ages, with different needs such as;
• Coping when you find out about your child’s heart problem
• Struggling to cope with treatments
• Helping you do the things that are important to you
• Support in preparing for surgery or procedures
• Managing emotions that come from dealing with a heart condition
There are different ways which we offer support to families, from general information guides and ‘top tips’, to meeting with families to talk about their specific difficulties.
Who can see the Psychology & Counselling Team?
We offer support to anyone who is under the care of any of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Congenital Cardiac Consultants. We work with all ages including parents who receive an antenatal diagnoses, children and young people and throughout adulthood.
Sometimes when we meet with patients and families it can become clear that managing their heart condition is going well, but there are other challenges they are managing. When this happens we may not be able to offer ongoing support, but we can ask other teams (such as CAMHS, IAPT, Schools and Community Support) to help with other parts of people’s lives that they find difficult.
How do I get to see the team?
Sometimes families feel that they need a bit more help and the Counseling and Psychology Team can offer support to families about particular problems.
There are different ways you might meet a member of the team. We work very closely within the wider medical team, so you may meet us in one of the clinics, or on ward round. At these times we will introduce ourselves and tell you a bit more about what we can offer and give you are contact details so that you can get in touch if you need to.
Sometimes the other people you see, like the children’s cardiac nurse specialist, your doctor or the ward staff may think that seeing us would be helpful. They usually discuss this with you and if you agree will get in touch with us and ask us to see you.
What to expect in an appointment?
Coming to see a member of the team means spending a bit of time talking together about what works well and what is difficult about living with your child’s heart condition. We work in lots of different ways, sometimes with the whole family together and at other times we meet just with a parent. We are also trained to work with children to think about how they are thinking and feeling. The first few sessions are usually to get to know each other and then we think together to see what might be helpful. Our work is based on what is important to your family wants so we can work quite differently with each family, because of this how often we meet and who comes to sessions will be worked out together with you in your first few appointments.
We know that some of you may travel a long way or find it hard to come to appointments in Leeds and we work in lots of different ways to try to make support accessible, including telephone appointments, video consultations and trying to meet you when you come in for other medical appointments.
Everything you talk about in a session with a member of the team will be kept private, unless we feel that you or your family members are at risk. If we are really worried that someone is unable to keep themselves safe, we would have to tell people to make sure there is a plan in place to help. We would tell you if we felt we needed to do this and who we would tell.
As we work within the medical team it may be useful to share information with them, but we will always talk to you about this and make sure it’s OK before sharing with other professionals.
Please note, we are not an emergency/ crisis service so if you require urgent professional support, request an urgent GP appointment, contact NHS Direct by dialling 111 or attend your local Accident & Emergency.