Health Psychology focuses on the relationship between physical and emotional health and wellbeing. Health psychology is a scientific and professional discipline concerned with the way in which biological, psychological and social factors affect health and illness.
Health psychologists use psychological principles to promote both acceptance and change in people’s behaviour, attitudes and thinking about health and disease. Health psychologists make a significant contribution to health services, especially in areas that require evidence based health behaviour change strategies and management of chronic diseases and chronic pain.
Nóirín has been coordinating and delivering Pain Rehabilitation Programmes for Rheumatology Services in hospitals since 2006. She carries out psychological assessments and tailors interventions to the needs of patients for individual and group therapy. She specialises in a combined Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approach for patients with chronic pain. She initially trained in ACT at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD) in Bath, UK and continued to deepen her practice with the founding members of ACT, Professor Kelly Wilson and Professor Stephen Hayes. More recently, she herself has delivered ACT training in conjunction with the HCPC to healthcare professionals throughout Ireland. She is also certified in motivational interviewing (MI) and mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR), and continues to develop and deepen her own personal mindfulness practice. She has carried out research into the processes and outcomes of rehabilitation for chronic pain and has presented her research at Psychology and Rheumatology Conferences in Ireland and Europe.
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that promotes a therapeutic process known as “Psychological Flexibility”. A key feature of this treatment for chronic pain is that it focuses on behavior change in line with people’s own values, rather than struggling with and focussing on symptom reduction. ACT has been shown to reduce pain related anxiety and depression whilst promoting a greater quality of life for those living with chronic pain and disease.
Developed in the late 1980’s by Hayes, Wilson and Strosahl, ACT is now listed by the American Psychological Association as an empirically supported treatment. Psychological Flexibility was summarized by one of ACT’s founders as follows “…the ability to contact the present moment more fully as a conscious human being and to either change behaviour or persist, when doing so serves valued ends” (Wilson & Murrell, 2005).
The diagram shown here outlines the “Hexaflex” which is the model that is used to summarise the six processes of ACT.