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Psychological Staff Support in Healthcare: Thinking and Practice

Edited by Dr Harriet Conniff

“The wellbeing of healthcare staff has always been important, but the COVID pandemic both amplified and highlighted the extent of the issue. If we are going to ensure the survival of our healthcare systems, we need to start by looking after and supporting the very core of them: the people. I’m so glad that this book brings together practice and expertise from around the world, especially as it gives due consideration to the importance of things like diversity and inclusion. Every healthcare institution (and in fact others) could and should learn from this and integrate it into their workplace. Because, as someone quoted so rightly put it: “stop calling it wellbeing It’s being – it’s normal. It’s not an optional extra.”

Dr. Ranj Singh
NHS Paediatric Emergency Medicine Consultant, TV Presenter and Author

“This book helps to meet a desperate need. Levels of healthcare staff stress, turnover and sickness absence – already at crisis levels before the pandemic – are deeply damaging our ability to care for those in our communities. The chapters are practical, powerful and wide ranging in describing how to act to address the underlying causes and consequences of working in environments that fail to meet our core human needs. They describe the content and successes of courageous interventions to bring about change, firmly embedded in robust psychological theory and research. Woven together by the core themes of compassion and justice, the chapters together offer a rich resource for leaders across our healthcare systems who must now recognise that high quality and compassionate care for staff is fundamental to ensuring high quality and compassionate care for our communities”.

Professor Michael West CBE
Lancaster University


Paperback isbn: 9781914110184
Pages: 345
Publication Date: September 30th 2022


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Table of contents

An Introduction to Psychological Staff Support. Dr Harriet Conniff

Section 1: Thinking

  1. Making Equality Diversity and Inclusion Fundamental to Staff Support Working. Dr Raselle Miller
  2. Organisational Trauma: An Important Context in Staff Support. Dr Karen Treisman.
  3. Setting up Systems of Staff Support Using a Systemic Approach. Dr Harriet Conniff & Dr Neil Rees
  4. Moral Injury: Why Exploring Novel Terms Makes Space for Talking in Staff Support. Dr Esther Murray
  5. A Relational Guide to Establish and Maintain a Psychologically Healthier Workplace. Dr Adrian Neal and Dr Julie Highfield
  6. Reflections on Group Interventions in Staff Health and Wellbeing: The Role of Psychologists. Dr Dr Zoe Berger, Dr Joanna Farrington-Exley, Dr Harriet Conniff and Dr Sadie Thomas-Unsworth
  7. Supporting Staff and Volunteers Delivering Services to People in Crisis. Dr Sarah Davidson, Rachel Morley, Paula Aredez Arriazu and Andrea Wood
  8. Research and Evaluation Considerations for Staff Support in Healthcare Settings. Dr Matt Hotton, Dr Louise Johnson and Dr Anika Petrella

 Section 2: Practice 

  1. Enabling Connection and Compassion through Structured Compassion Practices. Dr Benna Waites, Dr Charlie Jones, Laura Simms, Dr Alister Scott, Andy Bradley and Dr Rachel Potter.
  2. Compassion Focused Staff Support: An Antidote to Empathy Distress. Dr Kate Lucre, Catherine Lacey and Dr Jon Taylor
  3. Using the Professional Tree of Life for Staff Wellbeing and Supervision. Dr Julie Fraser and Dr Liz Matias
  4. The Heads and Hearts Model of Reflective Practice. Arabella Kurtz and Dr Joanna Levene
  5. Psychological Support for Health Care Workers in India: Using a Reflective Lens. Professor Poornima Bhola, Dr Rathna Isaac, and Dr Chetna Duggal
  6. Open Dialogue, Dialogical Leadership and Staff Support. Dr Lisa Monaghan and Cathy Thorley
  7. Strategic Working and Supporting Leadership within a Healthcare Context. Dr Julie Highfield and Dr Adrian Neal
  8. Brief Interventions with Senior Healthcare Staff during the Pandemic. Dr Penelope Cream and Professor Mike Wang
  9. Healthcare Professionals who have Experienced Trauma and the Role of EMDR Therapy. Dr Shannon Cullerton and Dr Sherry Rehim
  10. Debriefs? Offering Group Interventions in Response to Difficult Events. Dr Sadie Thomas-Unsworth, Dr Zoe Berger, Dr Joanna Farrington-Exley and Dr Harriet Conniff

Gathering Our Thoughts. Dr Harriet Conniff



About the book

This book is relevant for psychologists, psychosocial practitioners, healthcare leaders and those with an interest in staff support and wellbeing in healthcare settings.  It showcases a wide variety of work using different psychological approaches, including systemic, psychodynamic, narrative, trauma focused and compassion practices. Psychologists are involved at many different levels in staff support, however it is by no means exclusively their domain; with over forty contributors, this book presents collaborations with many other professionals, including chaplains and colleagues from organizational development, human resources and occupational health, as well as describing how psychological thinking can be applied more broadly to staff wellbeing.

The first part of the book introduces key psychological principles and ideas related to psychological staff support. This section discusses how to make equality diversity and inclusion central, presents relational and systemic models applied to the healthcare workforce, and concepts such as moral injury, and looks at how to evaluate the work. The second part focuses on practice and different ways of working with healthcare staff at an individual, team and organisational level. Included here are reflective practice models, the use of EMDR in supporting healthcare staff, debriefs, strategic working and support for senior staff.

A key theme emerges throughout the book, which is that no amount of staff support resources and professionals can alone address broader issues such as discrimination and bullying in the workplace, healthcare funding and staff shortage. These, of course, fundamentally affect the wellbeing of staff. Ideas are put forward as to ways wellbeing practitioners may use their influence strategically to work with leadership and organisations to support improvements to working conditions and develop cultures of compassion and inclusivity.

About the author

Dr Harriet Conniff is a mother and clinical psychologist who has worked in paediatrics and adult health settings for her entire career, mainly in intensive care and respiratory medicine. Throughout, she has been responsible for providing support to healthcare staff in different ways. Harriet feels passionately about this work and is continually learning from staff she is privileged to work with and her colleagues in the field of staff health and wellbeing. Harriet is systemically trained, specialising in the solution focused approach and finds the latter, as well as a systemic consultation model, particularly useful in staff support working. She lives in London, her hometown, which she loves for its diversity, and she replenishes her energies by travel to mountains and the sea.

The Association of Clinical Psychologists (ACP-UK) is the representative body for the profession of clinical psychology in the United Kingdom. ACP-UK aims to be a strong voice for clinical psychologists, and to act for the good of those who use psychological services and the general public by promoting, publicising, supporting and developing the profession of clinical psychology.

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