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'Golden Age' for clinical psychology in Northern Ireland

Two hundred leading clinical psychologists will converge on Belfast tomorrow (Friday, 20 November) to hear about new clinical and research initiatives to improve the healthcare of a diverse range of patients.

The event, entitled Leading the Way: Psychological Initiatives across Healthcare, is being staged by Queen’s University Belfast, the British Psychological Society and the Department of Health.

Held at the Culloden Hotel, the event celebrates the contribution made by Queen’s graduates in 50 years of clinical psychology in Northern Ireland.

Dr Chris McCusker from the School of Psychology is the conference organiser. He said: “This event showcases the new therapeutic interventions which demonstrate how psychological interventions are now at the heart of everyday healthcare.

“Fifty years ago Queen’s and its partners in the health service and wider higher education pioneered the teaching and research of clinical psychology in UK universities. This event showcases how that tradition is continuing with many clinical psychologists travelling to Belfast to hear about the development of a wide range of new therapies and interventions for the benefit of the local and global community.”

After the conference, a formal reunion for Queen’s clinical psychology graduates and staff over the past 50 years will take place.

Conference speakers:

Dr Geraldine Scott-Heyes is one of only a few psychologists in the United Kingdom running a psychological service for pregnant mothers. Increasing awareness of maternal mental health needs during pregnancy and the potential impact on the child highlights the value of the service at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital. She describes research and interventions with pregnant women and new mothers on the emotional challenges which can arise in relation to pregnancy, childbirth and parenting, especially when complications arise.

Brian McCrum describes a new initiative in the Northern Trust which uses virtual-computerised therapy to cut waiting times and bring the talking therapies to a wider number of people with mental health difficulties than ever before.

Dr Colin Wilson at the Regional Acquired Brain Injury Unit describes how psychological interventions are giving new directions to the rehabilitation of people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries and Dr Mandy Irvine highlights how psychologists have provided a new deal for people with a learning disability whose mental health needs have for too long gone unnoticed and unmet.

Dr Ciaran Shannon will focus on unrecognised histories of trauma (including troubles-related trauma), in people with schizophrenia, and new psychological approaches that go beyond traditional drug treatments are described.

Dr Nichola Rooney provides evidence of the psychological, physical and financial benefits of providing early interventions to children with a chronic illness and their families. In an exciting new programme at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children of psychological intervention for children with congenital heart disease improvements in child development, activity levels and behavioural adjustment are proven with associated decreases in mental health difficulties in mothers and a reduction in unplanned attendances at casualty and GP surgeries.

Dr Raman Kapur, author and media psychologist, from Threshold, provides a unique psychoanalytic insight into what has maintained the “troubled mind” of Northern Ireland which he argues “hasn’t gone away you know”.

Finally, Professor Robin Davidson delivers a provocative caution to mental health professionals and commissioners that one size does not fit all and that a diversity of psychological interventions are required to meet the needs of service users – against the current trend for standardised and proceduralised therapies.

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Press and PR Unit. Tel: 028 90 97 5384 or email

Lisa McElroy | Queen's University Belfast
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