Specialist psychological support for people with an unusual, changed, or visible difference in appearance
Who are we and how can we help?
We are a friendly service offering specialist psychological support to adults with appearance concerns relating to an unusual, changed or visible difference in appearance. This includes concerns that may be a result of:
- Congenital appearance concerns such as birthmarks, hemangioma
- Health conditions such as psoriasis, vitiligo, alopecia (hair loss)
- Trauma – after accidents or treatments causing changes to someone’s appearance e.g. scars, burns
Issues we can support people with include:
- Appearance-related distress – adjusting to a visible difference or changed appearance.
- Difficulties in dealing with other people’s reactions
- Coping with emotional issues e.g. anxiety, worries, feeling low.
- Building confidence or self-esteem, including social situations.
- Adjusting to loss and grief e.g. a change in your body
- Help getting back to previous activities or adjusting to new ones e.g. getting back to work / study, social activity
- Managing psychological trauma following an accident, injury, surgery or other treatments.
- Support with decision-making and / or preparing for surgery or other medical treatments.
- Signposting to other services.
What happens when you get referred?
When you are referred to the service, we will send you a letter asking you to confirm that you would like to be seen. We will then put you on our waiting list and will contact you as soon as we can offer you an appointment. It is completely up to you whether you choose to come and see us.
What can you expect at your first appointment?
Before your initial appointment, you may be sent some questionnaires in the post. This is to help us understand how things are for you now, and how things change during the course of any support we provide.
Please could you arrive 15 minutes early to your first appointment and bring these questionnaires with you, regardless of whether you have been able to complete them.
This will enable the team to look through your forms before your appointment.
At the initial appointment, you will meet a member of the clinical psychology team. We are experienced in helping people to feel more able and confident to cope with the emotional impact of health issues and appearance-related concerns.
During the first session you will have the opportunity to talk about your concerns. We will also explain in more detail how we might be able to support you with these. At the end of the first session the psychologist will discuss a plan of care, which may include further sessions with Outlook or signposting to other services.
If you would like anyone to join your sessions, such as a family member or friend, you are welcome to invite them as long as they are over 16. Sometimes, we will ask your permission if another colleague can join the session. It is fine to say no.
What will the sessions involve?
As well as having a safe and supportive space to talk, we will often explore:
- Ways to handle difficult thoughts, feelings, or sensations (e.g. fatigue) so they have less impact on you.
- Clarifying what matters to you (your personal values).
- Taking steps towards your goals.
We may also agree on some activities for you to do between sessions. Learning new skills takes time and practice but these activities will help you to get the most from your sessions.
How many appointments will you have?
We usually provide short-term, focused psychological support. We will work with you to decide what goals you want to achieve. This will help us decide together if we are the right service to support you and if so, how many sessions would be useful. Follow-ups are usually 45 minutes long.
We are not able to offer long-term, regular sessions in this service. However, if that seems a useful or appropriate option for you, we can try to help you find other services that offer longer-term counselling.
What happens to the information we discuss?
We take confidentiality seriously. Most of what we talk about with you will remain private. However, it can be helpful for us to share important information with staff closely involved in your care, e.g. in summary letters after the first and last appointments. If there is anything you don’t want shared please discuss this with the psychologist. However, if we are very concerned there is a risk of harm to you or others we may need to pass this information to relevant services, such as your GP. We keep a brief record of our session together in the medical notes and fuller notes are kept securely within the psychology team. If you have any particular concerns about confidentiality, please let us know.
Where are we based?
We run clinics in a number of venues at Southmead Hospital, Bristol. Details of these will be sent to you with your initial appointment.
Our contact details
The administration office is usually staffed on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9am and 3pm. You are welcome to leave a telephone / email message outside these times and one of the team will get back to you.
Telephone: (0117) 414 4888
Our admin address is:
Outlook & Clinical Health Psychology
Office 3, Level 3, Gate 38
Brunel building, Southmead Hospital
Our website has details about the service and some useful links.
If you want to give us feedback
We really value feedback from all clients who access the service and we will ask people at the end of their time with us to complete an anonymous feedback form. You can also provide direct feedback by writing to us or contacting the Advice and Complaints Team on 0117 414 4569.