Information alert:

We are unable to provide an emergency service. If you feel yourself or a loved one may be at risk, please contact your out of hours GP, emergency services via 111 or 999, Samaritans on 116 123 or Crisis Line 0800 145 6570 (Liverpool and Sefton) and 0800 051 1508 (Knowsley, St Helens, Warrington and Halton).

Liverpool Cancer Psychology is a specialist service for people who are experiencing significant distress related to their cancer and treatment, significantly affecting their lives, and particularly making it hard for them to take care of themselves and cope with their treatment.

It is a normal part of living with cancer to go through strong emotions, such as sadness or anger, and these often get better over time, but we can help patients who are struggling with this.

We work with each patient as an individual, with a unique life story and cultural context. We work with interpreters where needed.

We also offer a psychology service for all patients with eye cancer, treated at the Liverpool Ocular Oncology Centre, (LOOC) one of 4 UK tertiary centres funded by NHS England.

The kind of problems we can help with include:

  • Moderate to severe anxiety or depression
  • Intense emotional reactions which make it hard for patients to take care of themselves
  • Sleep problems
  • Being unable to adjust psychologically over time to the diagnosis, treatment, or consequences of cancer
  • Struggling to find a sense of purpose or meaning in life
  • The effects of traumatic experiences (which may be medical or not), including avoidance, anxiety and reliving these experiences
  • Cancer-related relationship and sexual problems
  • Body image problems
  • Anticipatory nausea and vomiting
  • Psychological difficulties related to pain
  • Complex grief (intense feelings of loss and sadness, which significantly affect mood and ability to function and do not improve over time)
  • Interpersonal difficulties which make it hard for patients to receive care
  • Need for specialist psychological support to make decisions about treatment
  • Psychological barriers to accessing cancer tests, treatments, self-care, or rehabilitation, such as severe fear of needles.

More information

We can accept referrals from GPs and colleagues at Liverpool University Hospitals.

We aim to see people for an initial assessment within four weeks after we receive a referral.

HCP referrals

  • We are commissioned by NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board (ICB), allowing us to see patients from boroughs who are under the care of a service at our hospitals.
  • We see patients who would benefit from meeting with a psychologist who can work as part of the cancer MDT, and who understands cancer and the issues it can raise. This might be because they are undergoing active cancer tests and treatments, have unstable or progressive disease, or are experiencing significant consequences of cancer and its treatment.
  • Unfortunately, we do not have capacity to see patients who have mild to moderate anxiety or mood problems, or whose psychological distress is not related to their cancer and is not significantly affecting their treatment.
  • We accept referrals via ICE or email. Please email: RoyalPsychology@liverpoolft.nhs.uk for our electronic referral form, which you can then return to us at the same address.

If you are unsure whether our service is the most appropriate one for your patient, or are concerned about a patient’s psychological health, but they do not wish to be referred to us, please contact us for advice.

Cancer Psychology Service Office is located on the First floor of the Edwards Building.

Fiona Boyd

I moved to the North-West in 2019 and am enjoying getting to know the wonderful city of Liverpool. I work as a Clinical Psychologist in cancer psychology and staff support services. I am interested in supporting the psychological wellbeing of both health professionals and patients. I enjoy working using person-centred psychological approaches to empower and support people to reach their wellbeing goals. I have a particular interest in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). I feel lucky to work in a team of skilled, enthusiastic, and compassionate professionals in the Clinical Health Psychology Department.

Gemma Cherry

Gemma qualified as a Clinical Psychologist in 2016 and has worked as a honorary Clinical Psychologist within the cancer team ever since. She combines this role with her substantive post as a Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool, where she is final year research lead for the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology programme. In addition to direct clinical work, Gemma acts as a liaison between the Clinical Health Psychology Service and the Psychosocial Research in Oncology and Physical Health Research Group at the University of Liverpool. In collaboration with clinical and academic colleagues, she conducts clinically relevant research designed to ultimately improve patient experience. She is particularly interested in understanding why some people experience psychological distress after a diagnosis of cancer or physical health difficulty, and in developing and testing interventions to reduce psychological distress in this context. She also has an interest in clinical decision-making and clinical communication, and leads several studies focused on improving these aspects of care.

Sally Cox

I work across cancer and cardiology services. I enjoy working with patients and families and with other professionals, to improve mental wellbeing and quality of life for people living with physical health conditions. I am registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the British Psychological Society (BPS). I use several different psychological models to inform my practice, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness. I have previously worked in both physical and mental health services for NHS Scotland. I provide placements for trainees completing the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology courses (Liverpool, Manchester, and Lancaster). I am currently co-ordinating the National Cardiac Psychology Special Interest Group (SIG). I am involved in a research project, working with Heart Failure Nursing Teams to improve the recognition of psychological distress and facilitate onward referral. We hope that this will improve health outcomes and help us to support people with their physical and mental health in a more integrated way.

Shannon Dandy

I am a clinical psychologist working in the Liverpool Psychology Service for Cancer. Throughout my career, I have felt passionate about working with patients and their families, and health care professionals to support psychological wellbeing for those with physical health conditions, their families and the staff supporting them. I have worked in both paediatric and adult settings, draw upon a range of psychological models in my practice, including Compassion Focused Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Anne Harper

I have worked for the NHS since 1997, where I started my career as a trainee medical secretary, progressing to a senior medical secretary at the RVI in Newcastle. I moved to Liverpool in 2016 and joined the Cancer Psychology Service in 2017. I am the senior secretary for the service and very much enjoy my role.

Laura Hope-Stone - Health Psychology Fellow, Ocular Oncology

Following an extensive career in oncology nursing in London, I moved to Liverpool in 2006 and trained as a Health Psychologist. Since 2010 I have provided a Health Psychology service for patients with eye cancer. My interests lie in preventing distress in patients with cancer by identifying those vulnerable to persistent distress and providing early psychological intervention.

Lenira Semedo

I am a health psychologist and I have joined the Liverpool Cancer Psychology Service in November 2023. I previously worked in a research role at Cardiff University in partnership with the Velindre University NHS Trust. I have a keen interest in motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy, and acceptance commitment therapy as a way of supporting individuals in being active partners in their care. I am very interested in conducting research to optimise well-being and quality of life for patients and families. Likewise, working in collaboration with health care professionals for improved patient outcomes.

Hannah Gregory

I am a Clinical Psychologist working in the Liverpool Psychology Service for Cancer and Marie Curie hospice. I have a particular interest in supporting psychological wellbeing for patients and their families with physical health conditions and palliative diagnoses. I enjoy using psychological models such as Systemic Therapy, Compassion Focused Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Dr Jane Hutton, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Lead

I grew up in Liverpool and returned here to lead to Service in 2019, after 15 years of experience working as a consultant clinical psychologist at King’s College Hospital in London. I am training in cognitive-behavioural and interpersonal therapies and am also an experienced mindfulness teacher. I am interested in the benefits of psychology and mindfulness for healthcare professionals, as well as for people living with cancer and other illnesses.

Lindsay Seddon

I began working for the NHS at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in 2019 before I moved back home to Liverpool in 2020 and joined the Cancer Psychology Service. I have a Psychology degree from the University of Liverpool and am currently working towards a qualification in data analysis.

Appointments may be offered face-to-face, by video or by telephone as per your preference. All you may discuss in your appointments is confidential. In case of risk of harm to you or others we would need to discuss this with other professionals however we would always check with you first. This is to protect your safety and safety of others. For further information, please see the Trust’s Privacy Policy.

  • Face to face appointments are usually carried out in Outpatients 1 and Outpatients 2 consultation rooms, Ground Floor, Royal Liverpool University Hospital
  • Assessment appointments usually last 75 minutes
  • Therapy and review appointments normally last 60 minutes
  • During your initial appointment, we aim to understand your difficulties and consider if further sessions with a psychologist will be useful for you. Sometimes it can take more than one session to reach a decision about this.
  • For some people, a one-off psychology assessment is enough (and their medical team) to understand and cope better with their needs. For others multiple sessions are needed.
  • For those facing more complex issues, a longer course of therapy can be helpful.
  • People who need a longer course of therapy may need to wait a few months for this depending on our waiting list at the time. Where necessary, we can offer telephone reviews during this period. We can offer therapy more quickly if there is an urgent clinical need.
  • If English is not your first language, we can offer you an interpreter. Visit the interpreter services page for more information.

We can draw on a range of psychological approaches which are best suited to meet your specific needs. These can include:

 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) encourages us to get in touch with what really matters to us and use these values to guide and motivate us. It teaches us how to embrace our thoughts and feelings instead of trying to get rid of them and getting frustrated with ourselves.

One technique in ACT that you may have heard of is “mindfulness.” But what really is mindfulness?! Mindfulness aims to connect us with the present moment. Concentrating on the present moment can be hard as our minds are busy thinking, problem solving, analysing…which is usually OK! But sometimes our minds get stuck on a problem that cannot be solved or play an upsetting moment over and over again. This can leave us feeling worried, upset, and stressed.

Mindfulness offers us another option to this usual way of thinking. It simply teaches us skills to focus on the present moment, without getting tangled up in difficult thoughts or emotions. Studies all over the world have shown how helpful mindfulness is to our mental and physical health. We have placed mindfulness exercises for you to try in “useful infomation.”

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a widely support psychological therapy and is the recommended approach across many mental health problems.

With CBT we can better understand how we think (thoughts), how we feel (emotions) and how we act (behaviour) all link together.

Therefore, if we experience negative thoughts, we can experience distress, low mood, anxiety, and it can impact what we do.

By becoming aware of how we interpret our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour we can learn new ways of coping. Usually, we start CBT by exploring what problems you want to work on and what your goals for therapy are. We then work together using weekly therapy sessions and between-session tasks to try and achieve your goals.

Metacognitive Therapy (MCT)

MCT is a psychological therapy which focusses on helping people to modify unhelpful beliefs about worry. The therapy aims to help people discover new, and more helpful ways to react to distressing thoughts, so it is less likely that you will spend time dwelling/ruminating on these and learn to develop more helpful ways of managing when distressing thoughts occur.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

  • MBCT is a course of eight weekly sessions, and a programme of practices to do at home. It teaches us ways to respond to our troubles more skilfully, and to experience happier moments more fully. This course offers a chance to move away from being on “automatic pilot” and to understand how our thinking can influence our physical and emotional experiences.
  • Mindfulness can be helpful for everyone in coping with the large and small stresses and struggles of everyday life. Mindfulness-based approaches have been shown to help people cope better with cancer and other health conditions, and to be less caught up in worries.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

  • Motivational interviewing is an approach that helps people to adapt and develop their own potential to cope with life situations to lead a balanced life.
  • This is by working in partnership with the psychologist to make decisions based on what is important for you.

  • The Cancer Psychology Service will run a brief pilot sleep group for patients and/or families who find that a cancer diagnosis/treatment are interfering with their daily functioning
  • This pilot will run initially over three weeks, one session a week
  • A face-to-face format/online format will be available
  • A member of the team will contact you to find out about your interest in taking part.

Getting Involved is a group of people who have used services, are carers or loved ones of people who have used services, and others who are interested. The aim of the group is to support clinicians and researchers to ensure that the patient perspective is fully taken into account.

What is involved?

The Getting Involved group means providing your views and feedback about a range of service related and research projects. Opportunities may include:

  • Making changes to the way services communicate
  • Making changes to the services provide
  • Helping to ensure that research is patient and carer focused
  • Being involved in the management of research studies
  • Being a participant in a research study.

If you are interested in learning more, please take our quick survey.

“Opportunity to talk about trauma that I could not with family and friends. A non judgemental and not worrying about upsetting family.”

“My anxiety as a cancer patient was acknowledged from the start of all the sessions. We had very open and frank conversations about dealing with anxieties, and in each session, I developed strategies to deal with cancer-associated problems. I found all the sessions really helpful and self-liberating. Thank you!"

“I felt really listened to and understood and received some good advice re- my operation concerns and anxiety.”


Patient story

Sandra is 44. She had bone cancer in childhood and had a leg amputated as a result. She managed the difficult adjustment of moving on with life after that and prided herself on being a ‘coper.’

Sandra.jpgIn later years, Sandra’s father had cancer and sadly died. At 43, Sandra was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through the process of surgery and radiotherapy, and it was after this stage that she began to find the anxiety that she had about recurrence quite unmanageable.

Sandra was reassured about a new breast lump that she found but was finding it very difficult to cope at that stage due to her anxiety that the cancer would return. Her breast care nurse referred her to see a clinical psychologist. Having always seen herself as a ‘coper,’ it was very frightening now to feel less able to cope – and Sandra was not hopeful of psychological therapy being useful.

"I didn’t really think it would do me any good in the slightest. I’ve never actually sat and spoke to anyone like that before and I just thought it would be a total waste of time….and I couldn’t believe it was the total opposite. After seeing the psychologist, the first time I thought oh yeah, I felt a bit better in myself and I felt like I’d let things go but as time went on it was absolutely, I think the best thing I ever did.

“Talking to somebody you don’t know makes such a difference, it really, really does. You can sit and talk to your family and friends but … I think you try and hold a lot of stuff in when you talking to family ‘cause you don’t want them to go through what you’re feeling and it’s amazing when you talk to someone you don’t know how more and more things come into your head. You start realising what you are actually worried about.

“I thought no, I didn’t need it I’m OK and everyone thinks that they are OK and strong … and that’s what I thought I’ve got through cancer once I’ll get through it again I don’t need anybody else’s help but I’d recommend it to everybody – even just a first appointment to see what they think. I wish I had been able to open up to someone after my first cancer.

"I’m happy to tell people I’ve had breast cancer and look at me I’m still here… You can think you are strong and cope with things and get over it but when you are sitting there on your own and things start going through your head, it’s nice to sit and talk to someone and things do start coming out."