Being a teenager is a time when lots of things are changing and you are trying to figure out who you are and what you want to be in the world. Being a teenager who has a heart condition can make this more difficult. It can make you feel different from your friends, change the choices which are available to you or stop you from doing the things that you want. It can be really tricky managing parents too. Often they have been looking after you and your heart for many years and it can be difficult for them, and you, when it’s time for you to be seen by the adult team and start to take control of managing your own health. This can lead to arguments and frustration in families and when you throw all the normal hormones into the mix, life can sometimes feel like hard work!
How you think and feel about living with your heart condition can change over time. Sometimes it might feel like it’s just something in the background, other times it may feel like it’s really getting in the way. We all have different ways of coping when things feel tough and sometimes that works fine. Other times we might need a bit of extra help and that is why we have a Psychology and Counselling team within the Congenital Cardiology team. Our job is to work with young people like you to think about helping them to find ways to cope when managing their heart condition feels a bit tough.
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 Psychology & Counselling 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 can we help with?
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
How can we help?
There are different ways which we can offer a bit of help when you need it, from general information guides and ‘top tips’ to meeting with you to talk about what’s going on in your life and how your heart affects you.
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 you might feel that you need a bit more help and the Counseling and Psychology Team can work directly with people (and sometimes their families) to offer support 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 we go to, or on the ward rounds we are on. 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 and ask for help if you need it.
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.
How can the team help me?
We work in lots of different ways with people, to try to make sure that they support we offer fits with what you need. Sometimes we meet with families and at other times we meet just with you. 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 you so we can work quite differently with each person. 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.