Therapy for Cancer Patients

Counseling for Cancer Patients


A cancer diagnosis can feel devastating, and the options can seem overwhelming. At times, it is difficult to avoid being gripped by fear. At other times, you may feel depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. You may want to talk about your feelings, but, for various reasons, you may be hesitant to confide in your loved ones. This is a challenging time, and you don’t have to go through it alone. Therapy for cancer patients can be a great resource.

Counseling can help

It is normal and natural to experience a variety of very uncomfortable emotions when the word “cancer” is in the same sentence as your name. The original diagnosis can be traumatic, leading to shock and PTSD-like symptoms. Once treatment begins, you tend to feel more empowered because you have a plan. When treatment ends, you might find those raw emotions resurfacing as you try to integrate what you went through.

At each stage of the journey, a qualified counselor can be a great resource to have in your corner. You have an experienced, objective ear listening to you. A therapist can offer suggestions, a safe place to process your thoughts and feelings, and provide tools to help you cope. Therapy itself offers a place for you to develop a sense of control and meaning. Moreover, the research suggests that therapy is helpful for people with cancer, even when the feelings are not severe.

Emotional well-being

There is evidence that people have better health outcomes when they deal with their emotions. According to David Spiegel, M.D., one of the study authors, “people do better in the aftermath of traumatic stress if they deal with it directly. Facing, rather than fleeing it, is important… In other words, don’t suppress your emotions.” That is exactly what therapy is meant to help you achieve!

In the book Radical Remission, Kelly Turner identifies key ingredients to seemingly miraculous recoveries from cancer. One of those is releasing buried negative feelings. Another is increasing positive feelings. Both of these are macro-level goals of any kind of therapy.

The role of stress

Resources as mainstream as WebMD and the Mayo Clinic address the role of stress in health. We know that stress and traumatic events impact the hormonal stress response system. This impact ends up impairing immune function and can lead to disease―even cancer. And we know that there are ways to combat that impact and improve overall health and well-being.

In one study of 94 women with metastatic or recurrent breast cancer, stress was correlated to disease: women who had not experienced significant stressors remained disease-free for longer periods of time than those who did experience significant stress. However, stressors are part of life. Thankfully, the tools we use in therapy help us navigate stressful situations, like the diagnosis itself, to experience less of the physiological fallout of stress. Clearly, there can be a great upside to receiving counseling.

Counseling for cancer patients

I have been supporting clients living with cancer for several years, both in my private practice and through volunteer and professional work in the community. I love it! My cancer-diagnosed clients have such resilience, you all inspire me! I am so lucky to have been a Unite for HER volunteer and psychotherapy provider since 2013, and to have joined the staff as Staff Counselor in 2021.

The mind-body connection

The mind-body connection has major implications for our health and wellness. Because of this, people across the Western world are taking up practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. Not only do they feel better, but a growing body of evidence also demonstrates that these practices improve our well-being.

In my counseling work, I introduce clients who are interested to mind-body practices like meditation (you can listen to some I’ve recorded on Soundcloud), mindfulness, and energy psychology (like the tools here). I will keep doing so, as my clients and I have found these to be helpful in dealing with stress. If you would like to learn more, contact me.