Counselling Services for Persons with Hepatitis C

Counselling is a very important aspect of the overall care of persons with Hepatitis C and their immediate relatives. Access to counselling is provided in a way which is flexible and fits in with the needs of clients so that they can avail of counselling wherever and whenever it is needed. Counselling is also available to persons who received infected or potentially infected Anti-D, blood or blood products but who have tested negative for Hepatitis C.

Counselling, including psychological and psychotherapy services, can be availed of at any time. Many people attend a counsellor directly after they have been diagnosed, or when they are preparing to attend the Hepatitis C & HIV Compensation Tribunal or High Court. However, you are not confined to seeking counselling at these times: you can attend a counsellor whenever you feel you need to. You do not have to remain with this counsellor if you would prefer to attend another, nor do you have to attend a local counsellor if you choose not to do so.

You do not need to be referred by your GP or consultant for counselling and you do not need prior approval, as long as you attend one of the therapists on the HSE list which is available from your Liaison Officer. This also applies to counselling services for your spouse or partner and children (including adult children). In the case of children who contracted Hepatitis C, counselling services will also be available to their parents, brothers and sisters, without prior approval or referral. Under certain circumstances, counselling for adults with Hepatitis C can also be extended to other close family members, particularly relatives or carers who are living with you, with the prior approval of your Hepatitis C Liaison Officer.

Each Hepatitis C Liaison Officer has a list of counsellors who are available to provide counselling under the Health (Amendment) Act, 1996. The HSE has checked the credentials of these counsellors to ensure that they are professionally trained and accredited. At the moment, accreditation from the following bodies is acceptable: Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI), Irish Association for Counselling and Therapy (IACT) and Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP).

The Liaison Officer pays the counselling fees directly to the counsellors registered to provide this counselling service. To avail of this service, you should contact the counsellor of your choice directly to arrange your appointment. S/he will ask you to sign a form that will allow him/her to be paid by the Liaison Officer for the consultation.

If you are already attending, or wish to attend, a counsellor who is not on the HSE list you will have to pay the counselling fee directly to the counsellor yourself. By providing your Liaison Officer with registration / accreditation details of your counsellor you will be able to recoup these payments but you should always discuss in advance with your Liaison Officer if possible to make arrangements.

Any queries with regard to this service should in the first instance be directed to the Hepatitis C Liaison Officer.

What about Counselling/Psychological support in hospital?

Although you do not need a doctor's referral for counselling, your liver specialist might decide that you need additional psychological support, and will refer you to an appropriate professional, either within the hospital, or in the community. Most of the designated units have a Hepatitis C nurse counsellor. In some instances s/he may not have the facility to offer counselling on a regular basis, although this can vary from hospital to hospital. However, s/he will be happy to talk you through any specific problems you have, perhaps in conjunction with your hospital visit (it would be advisable to phone first to make sure that the nurse counsellor will be available). Even if a Unit does not have a qualified nurse counsellor, the dedicated Hepatitis C Nurse will be happy to talk you through any specific problems you might have. Some hospital units also have the services of a psychologist.

Counselling can also be availed of to address special needs. If you are undertaking anti-viral treatment, support will be available from a specially trained treatment nurse - your hospital will give you details when your planned treatment is being discussed with you. Counselling can also be necessary to address problems caused directly or indirectly by Hepatitis C within a marriage, or within a family.

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