Training for cancer support workers

Ella Rhodes reports.

University of Chester psychologists have been working alongside cancer support charity Maggie’s to provide its staff with psychological support techniques. Professor Nick Hulbert-Williams and Dr Lee Hulbert-Williams at the university’s Department of Psychology delivered training in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to centre managers and cancer support specialists from across the country.  

The approach has been developed over the last 20 years and represents a major shift in supporting people going through life transition and psychological difficulties. ACT uses acceptance and mindfulness processes to accept what is out of a person’s control.

In the case of cancer, this includes accepting their troubling thoughts and difficult emotional responses; crucially, it is not about accepting the inevitability of illness or death. The applicability of ACT to people living through cancer has been shown by Professor Nick Hulbert-Williams’ work at the University of Chester, over the last six years.Both Professor and Dr Hulbert-Williams specialise in the use of ACT by non-therapists, and this innovative training package aimed to translate the approach into an enhanced communication skills course.

Professor Hulbert-Williams, who is also Director of the Chester Research Unit of the Psychology of Health (CRUPH) at the University of Chester, said: ‘I would argue that ACT is the most substantial and evidence-based recent development in the related fields of psychological therapy and coaching. We’re excited to see Maggie’s taking a lead in adopting a caring ethos that aligns with the latest scientific evidence regarding how best to support people going through major life events.’

CRUPH at the University of Chester conducts psychological research and consultancy to help improve professional practice and teaching in the fields of health and wellbeing. The Unit collaborates with healthcare providers, third-sector organisations and renowned experts to ensure that its work addresses issues of both local and global importance. Researchers in CRUPH will be evaluating the implementation of this training over the coming months with a view to then rolling it out to other healthcare settings. 

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