Psychotherapy for Cancer Patient

This article is written in collaboration with Naluri

Individuals with cancer often experience a wide range of emotions, from fear to distress and denial. These myriad of emotions are part of their defence mechanism to help them cope. Psychotherapy, a non-pharmacological approach can be very helpful in providing more adaptive and effective coping approaches in helping individuals with cancer. 

Past studies have shown that psychotherapy is helpful in increasing cancer patients knowledge of their disease and treatment, their emotional well-being, their quality of life as well as their resilience.

Types of psychotherapy approaches include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Behaviour Therapy, Humanistic Therapy, Holistic Therapy, Supportive Therapy and many others. Males, who are more likely to confine their distress alone will also be more likely to benefit from psychotherapy.

Emotional Health Management

Psychotherapy helps patients cope with their emotions after a cancer diagnosis. This includes fear, depression, or even anxiety. It was found that people who strived to improve psychologically and has grown more resilience through psychotherapy lived at least three times longer than expected.

Delivery of psychotherapy in a group act as an impactful support group for individuals with cancer. Positive affirmations- “I am strong enough to handle this” can also be an effective coping strategy.

Other method includes relaxation training through deep abdominal breathing that helps reduces anxiety. Likewise,  progressive muscle relaxation helps them to relax their muscles and consequently ease their body and mind state. Other than that, autogenic training through imagining a calm and relaxing environment by guided imagery helps individuals utilize imagery to help cope with their condition better.

Physical Health Management

Psychotherapy can help patients learn ways of managing their treatments more effectively. Psychotherapy through the biopsychosocial model helps healthcare provider to acknowledge the different aspects (biological, psychological, social)  of the patients lives that play a significant role in helping them to improve. Through this outlook, all aspects of the patient life will be addressed in the intervention of part of the disease such as pain management. Psychotherapeutic approaches have been found to be helpful in helping individuals with cancer by reducing their pain through effective pain management techniques as well as by addressing the underlying issues affecting their minds.

The role of spirituality is also a very important element that has been added to this biopsychosocial model and has been found to be very important in helping individuals with cancer. This is because holistic health care needs to address the entirety of an individual by taking into consideration the person’s relational existence, biological-physical, psychological, social, and spiritual believes.

Relapse Prevention

One of the most important parts of psychotherapy is the element of relapse prevention in which the individuals are assisted to ensure that they do not relapse back to their previous moments of distress or fears.

Psychotherapy is helpful as it can help individuals with cancer utilize cognitive restructuring techniques from cognitive behavioural therapy to help with the ‘bad days’. It is important for individuals with cancer as well as psychotherapists to understand that relapse is not uncommon and is not a cause for alarm. However, a contingency plan may be formulated to help prevent future relapses.

The level of effectiveness of psychotherapy may differ depending on the severity of the cancer. However, regardless of whether the individual is suffering from acute, continuous, or chronic symptoms of cancer, it is believed that some form of psychotherapy can be helpful in alleviating these symptoms. Sometimes it helps for them to know that there is professional support around the corner whom they can turn to during difficult times.

Psychotherapy for cancer patient, stamatis moraitis

source: New York Times

Stamatis Moraitis, a Greek immigrant in the US who lived till about 102 received a lung cancer diagnosis in his mid-60s and was told he had 6 to 9 months to live. However, he lived long enough to outlive the doctors who gave him this very diagnosis. He opted for a natural puristic way of life whereby he spent most of his time in nature and among his loved ones and realized that he became stronger with improved health.

Similarly, the use of psychotherapy through its many elements of positivity can indeed help improve the longevity of individuals with cancer. There is no limit to what an individual can achieve psychologically and physically. No matter what the diagnosis and no matter what the prognosis, know that you have it within you to survive and rise above your cancer diagnosis.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Naluri – Pioneering next generation digital therapeutics combining behavioural science, data science and digital design to build the mental resilience needed to achieve your goals and overcome life’s challenges that stand in your way.

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Pamilia Lourdunathan Clinical Psychology
Pamilia is a clinical psychologist and health coach at Naluri, with more than 2 years of practising experience as a clinical psychologist in the government ...
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Pamilia Lourdunathan Clinical Psychology
Pamilia is a clinical psychologist and health coach at Naluri, with more than 2 years of practising experience as a clinical psychologist in the government and private sectors under the pediatric and adult unit. She obtained her Master's degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from International Islamic University Malaysia and is currently completing her doctoral degree in Psychology at the same institution. She has also received certification on person-centred counselling skills.

Pamilia also has experience as an academician and enjoys conducting research. She is currently in the process of implementing an intervention program aiming to improve the emotional, behavioural and social well-being of adolescents living with HIV at shelter homes. She is passionate about helping the homeless and is experienced as a workshop assistant facilitator in collaboration with Pertubuhan Tindakan Wanita Islam (PERTIWI) and Human Relations Wellness Development (HRW).

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