Dr Natalie Hession, Principal Counselling Psychologist & Head of Department of Psycho-oncology at St Luke's Radiation Oncology Network writes about her work.
My work is very varied; I am really passionate about clinical work. I work therapeutically with people pre, during and post cancer treatment both inpatients and outpatients Sometimes people have a pre existing mental health condition. Sometimes people don’t have a mental health diagnosis but may be struggling with their cancer diagnosis. Cancer can impact anyone. It can bring up all kinds of existential matters – What is the meaning of my life? Am I living my best life? What kind of life do I want? People are faced with their own mortality regardless of prognosis.
We use evidence based psychological interventions and we work with people (both adults and children) individually and in groups, as well as with family members. The therapeutic relationship is core to our work. Obviously, working remotely some of the nuanced aspects of our work can be missed, however, working remotely has allowed us ‘meet’ with people who wouldn’t normally be able to access services such as those who returned home post treatment to places like Donegal as well as those who maybe to ill to return to the hospital or have transport difficulties. Having said that there is nothing like having people in the same room for developing a therapeutic relationship.
Working part of the wider multi-disciplinary team is also a core part of my work. I consult with the team individually or in meetings several times a day. Multi-disciplinary team approach to cancer care has been one of the biggest improvements in cancer care over the past 10-15 years.
Aside from clinical work, I’m involved in teaching psychological skills to the wider team, lecturing in various universities on aspects of psycho-oncology, carrying out research in order to develop evidence based psychological models within psycho-oncology and I sit on several national board and committees developing national policy in the area of psycho-oncology.
As a psychologist working in the area of cancer care it is vital to look after yourself emotionally. I make sure that I take lunch break every day and walk around the beautiful grounds at St Lukes no matter what the weather. it’s so important to get out into nature.