Summary

Internationally, palliative care is accepted as a holistic approach that promotes quality of life for both patients and their families, who are dealing with the problems associated with life-threatening illness.   With improvements in diagnosis and treatment, palliative conditions are increasingly perceived as chronic conditions, and whilst this is a positive development, the demands of adjustment the consequences physically and psychologically and the emotional challenges of survivorship can all put strain on inter-personal and intimate relationships with partners.  Couple therapy for Depression has been promoted by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, as helpful for depression, a symptom frequently associated with palliative care patients.  However, access to this approach is inconsistent in the UK generally, and despite being advocated for the general population, studies of its benefits and uptake in palliative care contexts is under-researched.

Aim: To explore the role and perceived impact of couple therapy in palliative care.

Objectives:

1.To summarize the evidence for couple counselling in palliative care.

2.To profile existing couple therapy services, role, usage and links to palliative care services.

3.To explore professional, patient and partner perceptions of the importance of couple therapy as part of  palliative care provision care.

4.To synthesize the findings to inform the development of an intervention  to improve care of couples in the palliative care journey

Methodology

Sequential mixed methods study comprised of four phases, linked to the objectives:

1.A scoping review of the policy and literature guided by guided by the Joanna Briggs Institute Scoping Review 7-8 protocol will be undertaken to examine gaps and types of evidence and policy that informs practice in this area.   This will synthesize the current state of the literature and inform future work.

2.Profile of services – a cross sectional survey of all hospices located across the UK and the island of Ireland will be undertaken to establish availability, relationship, role and usage (if available) with counselling/couple therapy/psychological interventions for couples.

3.Data collection will be conducted via two methods:

1) Qualitative Focus Group study with a purposive sample of multi-disciplinary health and social care professionals and psychological therapists, such as counsellors, psychotherapists, clinical psychologists, to gain insight into their understanding and perception of couple therapy and its role in palliative care provision. Semi-structured interviews will elicit data on the perceptions and experiences of professionals and about barriers or facilitators to an effective response to couple’s support needs.  Audio-recorded transcripts transcribed and analysed thematically.

2) One to one interviews will be undertaken with a purposive sample of palliative care patients and their partners to explore their perceptions, experiences and need for therapy in palliative care.  Semi-structured interviews based on literature and analysed thematically.  Deliberative panels (n=2) will be held with key stakeholders including palliative and generalist health care professionals, psychological therapists, such as counsellors, psychotherapists, clinical psychologists and palliative care patients and their partners.  Aim of panels will be to reflect on the findings of the study and develop key recommendations to inform development of couple theory in palliative care.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,285 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Professor Stenver Lin

Ulster University has very enhanced independent  learning.  I strongly recommend my students to go abroad to broaden their vision to get  new motivation.  I tell them that when studying at Ulster University, they will receive an abundance of knowledge, new experiences and strong technology to enhance their life.

Professor Stenver Lin - PhD Radiology

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Profile picture of Anne Fee

My career has spanned working within the community for both voluntary and statutory organisations. After completing my degree (Psychology) and Masters many years ago I was drawn once again to the academic life and the challenge of a PhD. I was tremendously privileged a secure a fellowship from HSC R&D office to fund my PhD. After having most recently worked within a health Trust supporting family carers, I wanted to investigate the impact of support services for family carers. I knew that male carers were 'hidden' and as such were particularly in need of support, so my PhD was within this area.I'm definitely most proud of MYSELF! My proudest moment was when I initially secured the funding for the PhD. My favorite memories involved data collection with the wonderful interview participants; and also the camaraderie of my PhD peers, who were always on hand to share the laughter... and the tears. I'll never forget.... my viva!

Anne Fee - PhD in Nursing and Health


Profile picture of Hafi Saad

I am a medical doctor by training, graduating from the University of Khartoum. I have a clinical MD in Community Medicine from Sudan Medical Specialization Board and a Masters in Molecular Medicine in from Institute of Endemic Diseses/University of Khartoum. I was the head of the Community Medicine Department at Shendi University in Sudan from 2010 – 2013 before moving to Northern Ireland to complete a Master of Public Health at Queen’s University, Belfast. I moved to Northern Ireland to complete a Master’s of Public Health at Queen’s University, Belfast in 2012/13. I was awarded the Ulster University Vice Chancellor’s Research Scholarship (VCRS) to undertake a PhD in the prevalence and risk factors of congenital heart disease in Northern Ireland which contributes to the primary prevention of congenital heart disease in Northern Ireland by determining the extent to which specific maternal risk factors are associated with the risk of having a baby with

Hafi Saad - PhD in Nursing and Health


Profile picture of Professor Chein Huei Kao

I am currently the Director for the Department of Nursing-midwifery and Women's Heath at NTUNHS.  I studied at Ulster University for 3 years and it was a very happy time.  Ulster is very good for study, not only in academic work but it also shows you how to be a good teacher.

Professor Chein Huei Kao - PhD Health Science of Nursing

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