Sydney West Translational Cancer Research Centre
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Prof Nick Hulbert-Williams: Interventions to improve the psychological wellbeing of people affected by cancer



Heydon Laurence LT217, The University of Sydney

Please join us this Friday 7 December from 3-4pm in Heydon Laurence LT217 for Prof Nick Hulbert-Williams from the Department of Psychology at the University of Chester. He will present: Interventions to improve the psychological wellbeing of people affected by cancer: why, and how, a move away from traditional randomised controlled trial designs may help us to develop more clinically- and cost-effective interventions.

Abstract: The literature demonstrating the effectiveness of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as an established psychological intervention framework continues to grow. ACT fits well with current data on the experience of psychological distress in people affected by cancer, and yet evidence for the use of ACT within these populations remains sparse (see Hulbert-Williams et al, 2018). I would not be alone in calling for psychosocial oncology researchers to concentrate their efforts on establishing high quality intervention evidence through robust and theoretically-informed research; this research must include the exploration not only of effectiveness but of processes and mechanisms of effect too. In striving for our interventions to be clinically implementable and impactful, our studies also need to address the reality that much of what we develop is too costly and specialist in nature; more pragmatic methods are needed.

In this talk I will give an overview of why I’ve moved (temporarily) away from trial methodology to build an evidence base, and intervention framework, for using ACT in cancer settings using more basic-science methodology. I will talk about data emerging from our ongoing theoretical modelling cohort study of cancer survivors, our single-case methodology research in palliative settings (the BEACHeS Study), and some of the experimental lab-based work being undertaken by my group to test and develop effective intervention components for use within ACT trials. In doing so, I will advocate for a return to basic science methods to develop improved psychosocial oncology interventions. We must learn to walk before we can run, even though this sometimes feels at odds with broader pressures for immediate impact in real-world settings.

Bio: Nick is a BPS Registered Coaching Psychologist and Professor of Behavioural Medicine. He has led a substantial programme of research exploring the psychological impact of cancer for over fifteen years, recently focussing on the use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. He teaches in the Psychology Department at the University of Chester where he is also Director of the Chester Research Unit for the Psychology of Health. Nick is past Chair of the British Psychosocial Oncology Society and current Chair of the International Psycho-Oncology Society Research Committee. In 2015, Nick co-edited a textbook entitled ‘Cancer and Cancer Care’.