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Meet the Team: MUSE Project

Posted: 08/09/20

Welcome to our ‘Meet the Team’ series. Today, we’re introducing the team behind the MUSE Project (Managing Unusual Sensory Experiences).

Made up of a team of clinical psychologists, psychological therapists, experts by experience and researchers, MUSE is a treatment approach using current psychological models to explain what may be happening when people hear voices or see visions.

Developed by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) in partnership with Hearing the Voice at Durham University, the treatment is run on a tablet.

There are eight different modules to access, each focusing on different types of audio and visual experience. The modules look at; what voices are, how the mind works, assessment, inner speech, memory based voices, hypervigilance, seeing visions and sleep.

The understanding of hearing voices is changing all the time and the modules are based on up-to-date evidence and research into voices and the brain.

Some people live with voices for a long time. This becomes a problem when people don’t feel in control or find what the voices say to be distressing. MUSE serves as a helpful aid towards better managing unusual sensory experiences and furthering a patient’s personal recovery journey.

The treatment is mainly focused on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with some Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT), giving clinicians and service users another treatment option.

Nicola Barclay, MUSE Senior Clinical Psychologist and At-Risk Mental State Lead, said: “Lots of people struggle to have a direct conversation about distressing unusual experiences, MUSE offers another way to help reduce the distress of these experiences by introducing new ideas and information about how the mind works.

“People have different ways of understanding their experiences and how they manage them; MUSE isn’t about changing minds but offering alternative explanations in a gentle way. We tried to makes the modules as user-friendly as possible and to allow for a different medium of communication that people can use with their clinicians or in their own time.”

The team’s project was recognised in the Academic Health Science Network Bright Ideas in Health Awards last year. One of only a few mental health submissions, MUSE came second in the award for Development of an Innovative Device or technology.

The Bright Ideas in Health Awards is an annual event celebrating the achievements of teams and individuals that have developed innovative ideas, projects or technologies that are helping to improve the care and service provided to patients across the North East and north Cumbria. The awards recognise people working within healthcare from the region’s NHS organisations, universities and businesses.

Feedback from service users has been positive, with many saying they have enjoyed using the resources. The team is bidding for funding for further research to investigate the effectiveness of the treatment. The funding will also allow for more data gathering from service users.

CNTW is a leading provider of mental health and disability services across the North East and north Cumbria.