HIV can be a challenging condition with which to live, and beyond the management of its physiological symptoms often also requires psychological care and support. A patient’s emotional well-being is important to their ability to self-manage their HIV – and that is crucial to their long-term well-being and health. In addition to the self-help and informal support which are part of the fabric of our service, then, we also offer specialist emotional support.

We screen patients for psychological issues and cognitive impairment annually, and maintain a close relationship with each and every patient, providing support for them to call on whenever they require. In particular, we encourage patients to look out for the ‘triggers’ for psychological distress, including commencing ARVs therapy, adherence problems, returning to clinical care or transferring centres, but also personal issues such as relationship break-ups, bereavement, or the experience of stigma.

For psychological information in other languages, click here for our PDF guide.

Get To Know Our Psychological Services

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Our in-house psychological support services provide a range of tools and techniques to tackle these problems when they occur, taking a stepped-care approach in order to tackle the various levels of distress appropriately. We also maintain wider networks of mental health care, including psychiatrics and community support, and our pathways for these transitions are smooth and clear.

There are four levels of practitioner to deal with the psychological problems our patients may experience: in the first instance, all frontline health and social care providers are expected to be involved in the monitoring of and responses to psychological concerns; where appropriate, however, patients can be referred upwards to providers with additional expertise and onwards to trained and accredited professionals and, finally, mental health specialists. In this way, we respond to every level of psychological concern clearly but also appropriately.

We plan services carefully to ensure the highest quality, but also that they are needs-based and tailored to the diverse contexts in which our patients may operate. Our service leads are highly qualified and embedded within multidisciplinary teams in order to provide the greatest possible peace of mind to patients. Effective communication and demonstrable competency are at the heart of our patient-carer relationship.

The emotional well-being of our patients is as important to us as their physical health – and we continue to invest heavily in, and improve constantly, the services which can minimise the psychological impact of their HIV and its treatment.


To get to know our services further, you can explore the below sections – or download them all in one handy reference guide by clicking here [PDF].

What are clinical psychologists?

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A Registered Clinical Psychologist is legally regulated by the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC).  They have doctorate qualification and receive on-going supervision and training.

A Clinical Psychologist is a person who works with unhelpful thoughts, feelings and actions.  They are not medical doctors and therefore do not prescribe drugs.  They have trained in the NHS and help people find healthy ways to cope.


Why might I be offered psychology?

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Your clinician will talk with you if they think psychology might be helpful.  They will then talk with the psychologist about your needs.

The psychologist can then:

  • Give advice to the clinician
  • Suggest organisations or give self-help information to you that may be helpful
  • Meet with you to get a better understanding of your needs

People usually meet with a psychologist if their issues relate directly to living with HIV/diagnosis/HIV medication, or it affecting how a person manages their HIV for example:

  • Worrying a lot either about HIV, or the worries affect their treatment
  • Feeling down, finding it hard to look after themselves
  • Struggling to take medication or stick to advice because of their mood
  • Engaging in activities that put the person or others at risk
  • Having flashbacks or nightmares after a frightening experience related to HIV, or the flashbacks make it difficult to manage HIV
  • Long term difficulty adjusting to diagnosis


What would happen if I have an appointment with a psychologist?

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Usually the psychologist will meet with you for one or two appointments for 50 minutes. During this confidential discussion, you will have the opportunity to talk about some of the things that are difficult, and what may be keeping this going. The psychologist will map this out with you and help you to think of some steps that could help. This may involve a talking therapy, practicing doing something differently, or other times; you may be provided with information about other organisations that could help.

It is entirely up to you if you wish to attend an appointment with a psychologist.  You may wish to have one appointment and then decide if it is for you or not. Your decision will in no way have a detrimental effect on the care you receive.


What kind of treatment does the Clinical Psychologist service offer?

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Clinical psychologists are trained in a variety of ways of helping people cope. If you are offered a talking therapy, this will involve developing a personalised understanding of how you came to feel the way you do and a personalised approach to best address the difficulties you are experiencing.

Some things are important when deciding whether to start a talking therapy.

  • Therapy is not a quick fix. Sometimes it can involve facing thoughts and feelings that you’ve wanted to lock away.  This can mean initially feeling worse as you start to face this, with the long term plan of feeling better.  It is therefore very important to think about what support you have available and whether life is stable enough to take on another challenge at the moment.
  • Therapy cannot be “done to” a person. It is important that you work in-between sessions on the tasks agreed rather than expecting the psychologist to cure you
  • Psychology appointments require regular (usually fortnightly) and punctual attendance. You will be discharged if you are unable to attend regularly because it is important to give therapy the best chance.  Appointments are usually 50 minutes so it is important to consider whether you are able to commit to this.

Some of the therapeutic models your psychologist may consider may involve:

  • Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy
  • Compassion Focussed Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing
  • Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
  • Cognitive Analytic Therapy

You can learn more about what Cognitive Behaviour Therapy involves here:


Clinical psychologists in training

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Clinical psychology training is a long process and the trainees working in the team have undertaken an undergraduate psychology degree, followed by several years of working therapeutically and/or in research plus at least two years of post-doctoral training prior to working in this service in their final year of training.  They offer assessments and 1:1 therapy.  Their work is supervised by the qualified and experienced clinical psychologist.


Other organisations that may be helpful

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Below you can find information about other NHS services and 3rd sector organisations offering psychological input and support services that may be helpful.  Most are based in central Birmingham, offer a free service and you can self refer.

  • Pattigift – offering African centred counselling and creative arts.  More information available here: You can self refer by calling: 0121-236-3551
  • Counselling via Deborah Maiden – Provides counselling service for people who are LGBT, Black African/Caribbean, Sex workers, Travellers, HIV or Hep C positive. For families, couples and partnered groups and individuals.  You self-refer by calling:  07976 919 481.
  • Birmingham Healthy Minds – is a primary care Cognitive Behavioural Therapy service providing therapy for Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that is not specifically related to HIV. you can refer yourself to this service by calling: 0121 301 2525 or texting ‘BHM’ to 60777 and they will call you back.
  • RSVPOffers counselling , support and social groups people affected by rape or sexual violence.  More information from:  You can self-refer by calling: 0121 643 0301 or emailing:
  • Freedom from torture -Offer advice, support and counselling for survivors of torture and asylum seekers who are isolated and finding it difficult to get support.  More information is available from:   You can self refer by calling: 0121 314 6825.
  • Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid – offering support for women affected by or worried about domestic abuse, forced marriage or female genital mutilation. More information on their services is available here: you can contact them within office hours on: 0808 800 0028. Or the national 24 hour helpline on: 0808 2000 247.
  • Terrence Higgins Trust – Offers information, online counselling and advice relating to HIV. More information from: on call: 0808 802 1221
  • Outdoor Lads – Social group for gay and bisexual men who enjoy outdoor sports (climbing, walking, cycling, fell running etc) More information available from: contact via: telephone: 0161 420 0001 or email: