Dr Fiona EcclesLecturer
My research is focussed on the psychological impact of living with chronic illness, particularly neurological conditions (for example Parkinson’s disease, Huntington's disease, multiple sclerosis or dystonia). We hope to develop psychological therapies to support people with neurological conditions and are currently involved in a small pilot trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for people with Huntington's disease.
I am also interested in the cognitive and psychological outcomes of treatment (both psychological and surgical). In addition, I am interested in people’s own understanding and sense making processes when living with illness (“illness beliefs”). I use both quantitative and qualitative approaches.
Research with Dr Jane Simpson at Lancaster includes
- A pilot trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for people with Huntington's disease (in collaboration with Dr David Craufurd, Manchester University and Dr Alistair Smith, mindfulness practitioner).
- Work with Parkinson's UK to create a scale of perceived control (also in collaboration with Dr Gerasimos Chatzidamianos at Lancaster University)
Research with Dr Richard Scott & Dr Alan Gray includes
- Neuropsychological outcomes of deep brain stimulation for neuropathic pain
- Cognitive profile of people with dystonia
- Neuropsychological outcomes of deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease
I currently supervise trainees' theses in the following areas:
- The experiences of people living with dystonia
- The experiences of people living with essential tremor
- The role of compassion in predicting wellbeing for people with epilepsy
- Minority stress in trans people and the impact of social support
- The expectations of psychological therapy for people with Huntington's disease
- How people with a diagnosis of non-epileptic attack disorder make sense of their symptoms
Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington's disease or Multiple Sclerosis which affect both physical health and cognitive functioning can present numerous challenges both to individuals and their families and our work is concerned with the psychological effects of living with these types of conditions. We are interested in aspects such as how people “live well” with their conditions and also how they “make sense” of the illness as well as difficulties encountered such as anxiety and low mood. In the future we are hoping to develop more psychological approaches to help people manage some of psychological difficulties that arise when living with these conditions. We are currently working on a pilot trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for people with Huntington's disease.
Deep brain stimulation is a surgical procedure which involves implanting a small stimulator in specific parts of the brain which can sometimes relieve some of the symptoms of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor or dystonia. This technique is also now being used to relieve the symptoms of chronic pain. Our work looks at the impact that these stimulators have on how people think (their cognitive functioning) and how they feel emotionally as well as their overall quality of life.
I am the co-ordinator of the Service Related Project that clinical psychology doctorate trainees undertake in their first and second years of training and deliver various teaching sessions related to this, alongside co-ordinating the peer review exercise and examiners. I also contribute to general research teaching for the trainees.