Toggle site contrast Toggle Contract

Family counselling service – National Spinal Injuries Centre

Read our guide below about our family counselling service at the National Spinal Injuries Centre.

You can also download a PDF version of this patient information by following the link on the right.

Coping with difficult news

A member of your family or a close friend may have sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI). This is usually an unexpected event caused by a traumatic accident or an illness. It’s normal for you to experience some intense and confusing emotions, which at times may feel overwhelming.

This is perfectly normal, understandable and can be temporary.

There’s no right or wrong way to feel because we all react in different ways. Some people find that during a stressful situation, previous ways of coping may not work as well as usual. They feel less resilient or able to cope with challenges and difficulties that come their way.

Thinking about new or additional ways of coping and supporting yourself can be helpful.

We also help an injured person to think about and try new ways of adjusting, managing and coping with new circumstances.

You may wish to remain strong for your injured relative, but it’s important that you and your family look after yourselves. Think of your own needs as well and make yourself aware of the resources and support available both within and outside the hospital.

What we do

We offer support to family and friends of individuals who have a spinal cord injury and are currently inpatients with the National Spinal Injury Centre.

You can speak to our family counsellor in confidence. They also co-ordinate the NSIC Family and Friends Day alongside the Patient Education Service. The day provides information and connection with former patients and their family members.

What is family counselling?

When family circumstances change in a very short space of time, it can sometimes leave a person feeling isolated and alone, especially if they can not share those feelings with another family member or friend. It might feel that the right thing to do is to try to protect your injured family member from your emotions, but it’s important that you find an outlet.

Talking to a professional counsellor may give you an opportunity to consider your emotions and think about constructive ways of coping and readjusting. It may lead you to experience a greater sense of control and purpose.

Emotions after a traumatic event

Waiting to hear the outcome of your relative’s injury from the doctor, travelling long distances and familiarising yourself with the hospital and staff can all cause you to feel stressed.

You may also experience other emotions such as:

  • exhaustion
  • anxiety
  • feelings of loss and sadness
  • anger at your family’s situation or a specific individual
  • frustration about what has happened
  • feelings of guilt.

Many family members continue to juggle the demands of work, childcare or caring for elderly relatives.  This can add to feelings of stress, fatigue and generally being overwhelmed and overloaded.

How the family counsellor can help

They provide a non-judgmental and unbiased approach to discuss how you feel and the current situation that you’re adjusting to.

It may be helpful to have someone who:

  • listens to your concerns
  • understands spinal cord injury
  • can help you to consider ways to manage as you and your family move forward in your adjustment and progress.

What can I talk to the counsellor about?

Any issues related to a family member having a spinal cord injury including:

  • stress and anxiety
  • how to gain a sense of control and manageability
  • sadness and loss
  • anger
  • guilt
  • coping and readjusting
  • communication
  • relationship and intimacy
  • change of roles within the family.

We support individuals, couples and/or families. We treat all enquiries will be treated in confidence.

What happens at my appointment?

We’ll contact you initially by phone or virtually using video conferencing at a convenient time to speak privately and when you won’t be interrupted.

There’s no set structure for the sessions.  You’re free to discuss things that are a priority for you.

The counsellor may ask for some background information in your initial session.

Frequency of counselling and length of each session

The length of each counselling session is normally between 50 minutes to 1 hour. This is flexible and may depend on your time and availability.

We tailor sessions around your needs. Some family members or friends request weekly appointments, others may schedule appointments as and when required.

How do I make an appointment with the family counsellor?

By phone or email (see contact details below). You can leave a message to prompt a call back which we’ll arrange for the next available working day.

Counselling is available on Tuesdays and Thursday between 8.30am and 8pm.

If you’re calling out of hours and need urgent support, contact your GP, out of hours GP or your local Emergency Department.

More information

Find out more about how we help patients with spinal injuries

Reducing associated healthcare infections

Find out how you can help to reduce healthcare associated infections when visiting hospital

About our patient information pages and leaflets

This patient advice is intended as general information only. We aim to make the information as up to date and accurate as possible, but please note that it is subject to change.

Always check specific advice on any concerns you may have with your doctor.

Contact us

Family counsellor
Family counsellor

Kim Broom

01296 315823

National Spinal Injuries Centre, Psychology Department
First Floor Offices next to St Andrew’s Ward