The British Psychological Society describes the aim of Clinical Psychology as being ‘to reduce psychological distress and to enhance and promote psychological well-being. A wide range of psychological difficulties are dealt with, including anxiety, depression, relationship problems, learning disabilities, child and family problems and serious mental illness.’ Clinical psychologists assess the individual’s or family’s needs and provide interventions based on psychological theories and research. Clinical psychologists who work in cochlear implant teams have chosen to specialise in working in this area following completion of their professional Doctoral qualification.
Although not all cochlear implant services employ clinical psychologists as an integral part of their team, there are a growing number of services that do; there are more clinical psychologists working in paediatric cochlear implant teams than adult teams. Whilst clinical psychologists work closely and collaboratively with their SLT, TOD and hearing therapy colleagues, they bring a different perspective to understanding the needs of the patients and their families, and have unique skills and roles in terms of assessment and intervention, for example where there are concerns about device usage, cognitive abilities or autistic spectrum disorder. Thus the potential role of clinical psychologists within the multi-disciplinary team is varied and includes assessment, individual, family and group interventions and liaison with local health, educational and social services. Clinical psychology input can be indicated at any stage of the programme from pre-implant assessment, preparation for surgery and switch on, through to post-implant follow-up and intervention.
Cochlear implant clinical psychologists also undertake a number of roles additional to direct clinical work that may include consultation to other professionals; liaison with external agencies; group work; research and audit; teaching and training; and staff support.
The special interest group for clinical psychologists working in paediatric cochlear implant centres (IC-Psych) meets approximately once every 2-3 months. The aim of these meetings is to discuss clinical issues, share knowledge and information with one another and offer peer support. The IC-Psych group has developped guidelines regarding the role of clinical psychologists in paediatric cochlear implant teams (Bathgate et al., 2013).