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Psychotherapy: Improving Coping Skills for Cancer Patients – DrPullen.com – Medical and Health Blog

Psychotherapy: Improving Coping Skills for Cancer Patients

 by Melanie Bowen guest contributor.  The stress of a cancer diagnosis or the rigorous aspect that treatment places on a patient can be damaging to their mental health, causing depression and anxiety.  Fortunately, psychotherapy can help these patients cope with their illness and harness any negative thoughts so that a mental well being can be established.

Whether facing a mesothelioma diagnosis or undergoing bone marrow treatment, cancer patients will learn and take control of their feelings and behaviors during psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy may be administered by a variety of licensed mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, counselors, or social workers.  While psychotherapy is commonly perceived to exist strictly between a professional and a patient, group therapy with family members or other patients may also take place and provide positive results.

Therapy for cancer patients may focus on a variety of tasks, including the development of coping mechanisms, self-exploration, and personal assignments to keep the patient focused on their therapy.

A particularly helpful type of psychotherapy is cognitive therapy.  Cognitive therapy is aimed to change certain behaviors or negative thought processes, similar to those that a cancer patient may possess when undergoing a rigorous treatment.

The therapist achieves this goal by redirecting those thoughts and creating an internal dialogue that is positive rather than harmful, such as by encouraging positive self-talk during a therapy session.  The therapist may also ask the patient to complete “homework” assignments between sessions, such as having them create a list of things that they like about themselves.

Family psychotherapy may also be helpful to the patient and their loved ones as it should address any relationship strains and the devastating impact that cancer can have on a family.  To be successful, all family members need to actively participate in this type of therapy so that the patient can communicate with their family more effectively and address any feelings that have remained unresolved.

One type of psychotherapy that every cancer patient should partake in is group therapy.  There has been widespread evidence that group therapy can improve mood and adjustment levels and strengthen coping skills in those with cancer.

These groups are facilitated by a mental health professional and may meet on a regularly scheduled basis, providing a support group for the cancer patient and a sense of stability. Group therapy has been found to reduce anxiety for those with cancer as it is an atmosphere where patients can express their feelings and learn how others deal with similar feelings as well.

While psychotherapy is not intended to cure cancer, it is a powerful way to improve the quality of life and provide coping skills for those who are going through a diagnosis or treatment of cancer.  Cancer patients often experience depression and anxiety, so it is important to find ways to alleviate this stress and enjoy life on a higher level.

Whether you are battling breast cancer, on a bumpy ride with leukemia or simply trying to get through your mesothelioma treatment, remember a successful road to recovery is always easier when one has a positive mindset. Talk to your doctor today and alleviate some of your everyday cancer stressors and get out there and feel better about yourself inside and out!

Melanie Bowen: I joined the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance in 2011 as an awareness advocate for natural health and cancer cure initiatives. You will often find me highlighting the great benefits of alternative nutritional, emotional, and physical treatments on those diagnosed with cancer or other serious illness. I also assist in social media outreach in my efforts to spread awareness.  http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/melanie/

One Response to Psychotherapy: Improving Coping Skills for Cancer Patients

  1. Many thanks to Ms. Bowen for her insightful and thoughtful guest commentary. As the physician spouse of a wife 3 1/2 years into living with ovarian cancer I have some personal as well as professional experiences reflect on as I read and decided to accept this post. So far I have been the only member or our family to use formal psychotherapy, as initially I had more trouble managing my grief and role than Kay did. I found short term counseling very helpful in developing a strategy to manage my thoughts and grief.
    The only part of the article I take issue with really is the call for every cancer patient to use group therapy. I agree this can be very useful, but would be hesitant to make this a mandate for individual patients, rather a suggestion to strongly consider.
    Thanks Ms. Bowen for you contribution.

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