Working with Complexity: The psychotherapeutic challenges of working with people with persistent physical symptoms

There is a solid body of evidence to show that people with emotional difficulties present in different settings with physical ailments.  We also know that people with diagnosable conditions from more immediately life-threatening illness, like cancer, to illnesses that pose serious challenges over longer periods of time may experience emotional difficulties and can be supported to better manage their conditions and thereby improve their quality of life when they are helped to address the emotional consequences of their personal circumstances. Some people who experience serious physical difficulties and the professionals who treat them do not readily recognise any emotional or psychological component arising from to their subjective distress.
The event aims to compare and contrast a range of psychological theories that have formed the basis of interventions with people experiencing emotional difficulties associated with persistent physical symptoms. Models include cognitive behavioural theory, solution focussed therapy, mentalization-based therapy and psychodynamic  approaches. The day will explore and debate common features, differences in the models and their utility in managing complex clinical presentations.

The conference will be divided into two parts. In the morning session, we will hear from four experts in their respective fields describing how their chosen therapeutic model helps them navigate the complex terrain towards the goal of helping their clients improve the quality of their lives.   The aim will be to present a variety of clinical models and approaches.  The afternoon session will begin with a clinical presentation of work with a particular client by a clinician working in a primary care service for people with complex care needs.   Those clinicians presenting in the morning will then give a brief response from their own perspective to the case.  There will be opportunities throughout the day for participants to voice their experiences and thoughts as we work together to develop our thinking and our clinical approach.

Division of Clinical Psychology Faculty of Clinical Health Psychology in partnership with The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust.


09:30 Registration/Tea and Coffee
10:00 Workshop starts (there will be a one hour break for lunch)
16:40 Workshop ends


 Learning outcomes and objectives

  • Sharing the challenges of working therapeutically with people presenting with co-morbid persistent physical symptoms and complex psychological problems 
  • Developing an understanding of alternative therapeutic approaches to these challenges
  • Furthering the development of models of effective practice with complex cases 
  • Exploring shared principles of care and possible differences in approach to working with challenging clinical situations

Organising Committee

Dr Hilary Rankin has worked as a clinical psychologist in the NHS since 1982.Having worked in mental health services for several years she was instrumental in setting up a multidisciplinary pain management programme for adults with chronic pain which she continues to lead. She is the professional lead for a clinical health psychology service at Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust in South London.Current interests include the development of care pathways for people with chronic pain and the care of people with complex emotional needs presenting in medical settings.

Brian Rock is a consultant clinical psychologist for the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust and has worked in the NHS for the past 15 years.  Brian is now the service lead for the City & Hackney Primary Care Psychotherapy Consultation Service (PCPCS).  He is also the clinical manager for the online wellbeing service Big White Wall.Brian is very involved in service development in primary care for people with complex physical/emotional needs.  He is also involved in developing and delivering training for GPs in the area of complex care needs especially focused on so-called medically unexplained symptoms. 

Dr Jenny van Heerden obtained an MA in Philosophy from Cambridge University and an MSc in Psychology from Essex University. She worked in healthcare consultancy in the private sector, and in research at The Institute of Psychiatry before completing her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London. After qualification Jenny worked in a primary care psychology service in south London before joining the City & Hackney Primary Care Psychotherapy Consultation Service as a clinical co-ordinator at its inception in October 2009. She retains broad clinical interests, particularly in medically unexplained symptoms, Personality Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorders, and is interested in working in a range of models to meet the needs of complex patients.

More information on speakers including Dr Patrick Luyten,Professor Trudie Chalder, Dr Julian Stern, Dr Beck Simm and Louise Lyon.

Booking information


  • DCP member: £85
  • Tavistock staff: £85
  • BPS member: £100
  • Non-BPS member: £135

(all prices include VAT)

How to book

Registration for this event has closed.


The Tavistock Centre, 120 Belsize Lane, London NW3 5BA

Fri, 07/10/2011 (All day)
Contact Information: 

BPS Learning Centre

Tel: +44(0)116 252 9512

BPS Learning Centre, Division of Clinical Psychology Faculty of Clinical Health Psychology