Dr Michelle Sowden

Consultant Clinical Psychologist

PsychD, MSc, BSc


Specialises in

After qualifying as a Clinical Psychologist in 1993 I gained experience in community mental health day hospital and acute services with Heathlands Mental Health Trust, before moving to Frimley Park Hospital in 1995, to take up a post specialising in the psychological care of patients with physical health problems. Since then I have set up and developed a clinical psychology service across the hospital, developing experience across a wide range of specialities.I have taken a keen interest in promoting and enhancing psychological wellbeing especially for people experiencing critical or life changing illness. I strongly believe that good psychological care should be embedded in patient care at all levels of the service. To this end I have been actively working with the local Critical Care and Cancer Networks and have delivered extensive training for physical health care staff across a range of specialities.I also contribute to training clinical psychologists on the doctorate course at the University of Surrey and have taught on the MSc in Palliative Care there. I am a co-author of CBT for Chronic Illness and Palliative Care: A Workbook and Toolkit, which was published by Wiley in 2008 and is used as a textbook by a range of training providers. I have also published research papers in the field of chronic pain.My therapeutic work is always based on a thorough assessment of your needs and discussion about what you would like to work on. I can offer a range of therapies including cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness and EMDR (for trauma). I am able to offer help individually or with relationship issues.Treatments carried out by me: Enhancing health and wellbeing using a psychological approach drawing on Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). My work involves helping people cope with the emotional, practical and social challenges of experiencing serious, critical and/or life changing illness including chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, cardiac, respiratory, gastroenterological and neurological problems. I also work with people experiencing emotional difficulties in the ante or post-natal period.This may include: Managing long term illness. For instance, coming to terms with a difficult diagnosis and finding ways of coping better with symptoms and physical limitations; Coping with anxiety, depression or post- traumatic stress arising in relation to physical illness or injury; Coping with psychological distress during pregnancy, childbirth and the perinatal period including fear of childbirth, psychological trauma from more complex deliveries and ante- or post-natal anxiety or depression; Coping with unpleasant symptoms such as long term/chronic pain and fatigue; Coping with symptoms that may cause embarrassment such as unpredictable bowel motions or wind, and visible changes in appearance; Overcoming health related phobias, including needle phobias, fear of scanners, anaesthesia, surgery, dental work, worries about health and panic attacks, for instance, associated with allergies; Support with making difficult health related decisions such as in relation to hysterectomy and prophylactic surgery; Managing more general stress, anxiety and low mood.
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Treatment information

Some of the principal treatments carried out by Dr Michelle Sowden at Spire include:

Psychology

Other treatments

Some of the principal treatments carried out include:

 

Psychological therapy to enhance your physical health and emotional wellbeing. I see people who need help to cope with and manage changes in their physical health such as a diagnosis of illness or because of injury.

An integrated approach drawing on cognitive behavioural therapy, systemic therapies, mindfulness and trauma therapies.

I offer structured, usually short term, therapy tailored to meet your needs.

I can also offer help with more general anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues and stress; you don’t have to have a physical health diagnosis to consult me. 

Since many of my patients have experienced loss and change, my work is grounded in providing a safe and compassionate space in which difficulties can be explored.

How can a psychologist help with physical and emotional health problems?

People consult me when they think that emotional issues are affecting how they recover from, manage and/or live alongside a physical health condition. These emotional issues may include low mood, anxiety or generally feeling fed up with and despondent about their health. They may also be experiencing difficulties tolerating treatment and side effects.  Overcoming these emotional difficulties can be an important part of the overall recovery process and ability to resume a fulfilling and satisfying life. 

Examples include coping with a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, cardiac disease, respiratory condition, chronic pain, fatigue or rheumatological condition, neurological disorder, gastrointestinal disorder or obstetric or gynaecological issues.

I have a special interest in helping people cope with the after effects of an intensive care admission.

I can also offer help with excessive worry about your health, regardless of whether you have a diagnosis.

Some more specific examples are provided below but this list is not exhaustive and I am happy to discuss your requirements by phone to help you decide whether I am the right clinical psychologist for you:

You may require help with:

 Managing long term illness. For instance, coming to terms with a difficult diagnosis and finding ways of coping better with symptoms and physical limitations.

Coping with anxiety, depression or post- traumatic stress arising in relation to physical illness or injury or other traumatic events.

Coping with psychological distress during pregnancy, childbirth and the perinatal period including fear of childbirth, psychological trauma from more complex deliveries and ante- or post-natal anxiety or depression.

Coping with unpleasant symptoms such as long term/chronic pain and fatigue.

Coping with symptoms that may cause embarrassment such as unpredictable bowel motions or wind.

Coping with changes in appearance that are causing distress, such as scarring, loss of limbs, acne and body image changes due to weight gain or loss.

Overcoming health related phobias, including needle phobias, fear of scanners, anaesthesia, surgery, dental work, worries about health and panic attacks, for instance, associated with allergies.

Support with making difficult health related decisions such as in relation to risk reducing elective surgery including mastectomy and hysterectomy.

Other treatments:

 I can offer help with more general psychological and emotional difficulties such as managing stress, anxiety disorders, low mood and depression and low self-esteem.

 Please note that traditionally clinical psychologists have provided help to people with mental health difficulties.  However, my expertise lies in helping people manage physical health problems and I have over 23 years experience of working in a general hospital alongside doctors and nurses contributing to people’s recovery and rehabilitation.  Whilst I am happy to advise on onwards referrals for severe and enduring mental health problems and head injuries, these require a different expertise. 

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Important information about Covid-19 tests

Spire Clare Park Hospital is only able to provide Covid-19 tests to patients undergoing surgery at our hospital. Covid-19 testing or antibody tests are not available as a standalone service.

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Additional information

Clinical interests

My interest in helping people cope with changes in their physical health was sparked as a young adult when I observed life in a small community pharmacy at close range and began to witness the profound impact health issues can have on our lives. During my professional training I sought out a specialist placement in a Pain Clinic and this confirmed my passion for contributing to recovery and rehabilitation through using psychological skills and knowledge. Soon after qualifying, I moved to a post at Frimley Park Hospital in 1995, where I developed and led a service for 23 years, covering a wide range of physical health specialities and working alongside doctors, nurses and physiotherapists to contribute to peoples’ recovery from serious illness. Over the years I have worked with Diabetes, Cancer and Palliative Care, Cardiology, Respiratory Care, Neurology, Gastroenterology, Rheumatology and Pain Clinic, Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Intensive care. I have a keen interest in promoting and enhancing psychological wellbeing especially for people experiencing critical or life changing illness. I strongly believe that good psychological care should be embedded in patient care at all levels of the service. To this end I have been actively working with the local Critical Care and Cancer Networks and I have delivered extensive training for physical health care staff across a range of specialties. I am passionate about supporting healthcare professional to manage the impact of their work on their wellbeing and I have been privileged to have facilitated Schwartz Rounds at Frimley Park Hospital which provide a forum for staff to reflect on the impact of their work. I also contribute to training clinical psychologists on the doctorate course at the University of Surrey and have taught on the MSc in Palliative Care. Our book entitled CBT for Chronic Illness and Palliative Care: A Workbook and Toolkit, was published by Wiley in 2008 and is used as a textbook by a range of training providers. I have also published research papers in the field of chronic pain.

Qualification and professional memberships

PsychD Clinical Psychology / University of Surrey / 1995
Doctorate training in Clinical Psychology

MSc Clinical Psychology / University of Surrey / 1993
Masters in Clinical Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology / University of Surrey / 1991
First degree in Psychology


Professional memberships

Registered Clinical Psychologist (Health and Care Professional Council)

Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society / Chartered Psychologist


Professional leadership

Lead Consultant Psychologist for the Clinical Psychology Service at Frimley Park Hospital

Research and publications

Sage, N., Sowden, M., Chorlton, E. and Edeleanu A, (2008) CBT for Chronic Illness and Palliative Care: A Workbook and Toolkit, Wiley.

 

Sowden, M., Sage, N. and Cockburn, J. (2004) Coping and Adjustment in Pregnancy; giving babies a better start. In Cockburn J. and Pawson, M. (Eds), Psychological Challenges in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Springer.

 

Articles

Sowden, M., Hatch, A., Gray, S. and Coombs, J. (2006) Can four psychosocial risk factors for chronic pain and disability be modified by a pain management programme? A pilot study, Physiotherapy, 92 (1), 43-49.

 

Sowden, M., Gray, S. and Hatch, A. (2004) How understanding the personal experience of living with chronic pain has led to opportunities for further service development, Clinical Psychology, (35), 29-32.

 

Conference presentations

Hatch, A., Sowden, M & Peskett, E. (2007). Annual refresher day: a cost effective contribution to a model of service provision for a long-term condition. Poster presented at the British Pain Society, UK, 2007.

 

Hatch, A., Coombs, J., and Sowden, M. (2005) Can four key psychosocial risk factors for chronic pain and disability be modified by a pain management programme? A follow-up study.  Poster presented at the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) World Conference, Sydney, Australia.

 

Sowden, M., Edelmann, R. and Rankin, H. (1994) Individual differences in response to patient controlled analgesia. British Psychological Society London Conference 1994. Abstract published in the Proceedings of the British Psychological Society2(1), 54.

Current NHS posts

I am contracted by the Royal Surrey County Hospital to provide the clinical supervision for psychology within the Intensive Care Unit.

Personal profile

My therapeutic work is always based on a thorough assessment of your needs and discussion about what you would like to work on.  I can offer a range of therapies including cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness and EMDR (for trauma).  I am able to offer help individually or with relationship issues.  I am trained and experienced in working with people facing very difficult and distressing events in their lives.  In line with standard professional requirements, I access regular clinical supervision from a fellow Consultant Clinical Psychologist who specialises in the same field.  Please phone me if you would like to discuss your needs.

Contact information

Telephone 07597 972 770
Email michellesowden.psychology@gmail.com
Private secretary Mandy Peters
Private secretary telephone 01252 710 549