The Royal Marsden Healthcare experts

Q&A: Dr Nick Mooney, Clinical Psychologist

Dr Nick Mooney works within Psychological Support Services at The Royal Marsden, treating adult patients who are experiencing psychological distress related to their cancer diagnosis or treatment

He joined The Royal Marsden on a part-time basis in November 2016 to provide a bespoke service for private patients. Dr Mooney provides psychological assessment and therapy for a variety of cognitive, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

His therapeutic work at the hospital centres on helping patients to recognise how their physical and their psychological wellbeing are intertwined. Dr Mooney has more than eight years of post-qualification experience as a Clinical Psychologist.

Hailing from New Zealand, he gained a master’s degree in Health Sciences (Hons.) from the University of Auckland and a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Massey University.

Since arriving in the UK in 2013, Dr Mooney has worked in both the NHS and private practice. He currently works privately with patients in London and Kent. His primary modes of therapy are acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

What service do you provide to The Royal Marsden’s private patients?

The Royal Marsden has a good history of considering the holistic health and the overall wellbeing of patients. As a Clinical Psychologist, I am part of the Trust’s wider Psychological Support Services, which aim to give patients psychological support to help them through what can be a very challenging time in their lives. The diagnosis and treatment of cancer can often result in symptoms of low mood, anxiety and uncertainty about the future.

I aim to help patients who are struggling to adjust to their diagnosis, treatment or the impact that their health is having on the quality of their lives. It isn’t always a mental health issue. For some patients, there are emotional aspects that relate to their family or children and how they are coping, or even a fear of being in hospital. I work with patients to help address these issues in a safe and confidential space.

Why would a patient be referred or ask to be referred to you?

It is quite usual for patients to experience stress and worry following their diagnosis or during their treatment. A patient can be affected at any point in their cancer journey and can experience a number of different issues. While medical staff can treat the cancer and the physical effects of treatment, I can help patients to understand the links between their physical health and their psychological wellbeing. I find that this can help people to identify what is truly important to them, which then frees them up to take steps towards meaningful and valued activities.

What can patients expect if they see you?

I see patients at both the Chelsea and the Sutton sites. Most people are seen in the outpatient clinic; however, I will try to see people as inpatients if necessary. A typical appointment lasts about 50 minutes. Many of my patients come to therapy with a detailed understanding of their diagnosis and treatment. For this reason, it is important that we develop a collaborative relationship whereby the patient has the space to express their difficulties, while learning about how their reactions to their experience might explain some of their distress.

I can then start to introduce new psychological skills and strategies if necessary. I will ask patients directly about psychosocial issues that are common to people experiencing cancer. We also use psychological questionnaires to assess for difficulties, and to monitor progress throughout treatment. Therapy with patients tends to be brief and focuses on the specific cancer-related concerns that have resulted in the referral.

How can patients be referred to you?

There are two ways in which patients can be referred to me. Patients can either refer themselves or be referred by a clinician involved in their care. This is usually a clinical nurse specialist or a member of their medical team. The staff at The Royal Marsden are acutely aware of the psychological needs of their patients, and know the signs that could indicate when a patient may need extra support.