My name is Nicky Hartigan and I am a Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director at HelloSelf, the UK’s largest independent online therapy clinic. I also have multiple sclerosis and have been following the OMS approach for almost 3 years.
I qualified as a psychologist 14 years ago and I can genuinely say I love my career, helping people to live with and adapt to a range of difficult experiences, thoughts and feelings. I think this background has helped me have hope and confidence in managing a life with MS - I’ve seen firsthand the courage and resilience with which people have faced huge challenges and have also benefited from having a few therapy techniques up my sleeve!
Finding OMS has been a further source of wisdom, support and encouragement from the point at which I first suspected I had MS. In the OMS community I see those further along their MS journey, who are able to embrace life with all the physical and emotional challenges it brings, and I sincerely thank Professor Jelinek and all the OMSers I have encountered for showing me this.
That being said we all struggle at times with the challenges we face in living well alongside MS. It’s just a lot sometimes, isn't it? Something that has surprised me is the lack of psychological support I have received from MS services, and we know from research that many people diagnosed with MS report having never been offered, or able to access emotional support. However as someone living with MS, we all know how important it is that we are viewed and supported as a whole person - not just as a brain with lesions or a body that may struggle to move. But without being asked the right questions and having the right conversations about emotional wellbeing, people with MS can be left to grapple with the psychological impact alone.
Of course as a Clinical Psychologist I am a passionate advocate for the benefits of psychological therapy and -here is a strong evidence base which demonstrates that engaging in therapy can support people who are living with chronic health conditions. However, there can be barriers to accessing psychological therapy, such as waiting lists for statutory services, cost of sessions in the independent sector, inaccessibility of locations/buildings, therapy not having been offered or misconceptions about what therapy is and is for.
At HelloSelf an important part of our mission is to reduce these barriers and increase access to high quality, evidence-based therapy, and of course it is a personal mission of mine to support the MS community! We are excited to share news that HelloSelf will be embarking on a partnership with OMS, and offering a course of psychological therapy free of charge to people with MS. We are going to trial this initiative for 10 people and evaluate it and depending on the feedback we get, hopefully roll it out further.
To be successful in securing a place on this trial initiative you will need to have a diagnosis of MS and reside in the UK. We are offering ten places on a first come first served basis.
If you are interested in taking part and accessing a course of therapy with HelloSelf, you can find more information about the trial and next steps, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org