Flying back from Boston Saturday, I sat next to a retired psychiatrist.  What a wonderful woman!

We talked and shared stories about our lives.  And she listened as I gushed about my new life living with multiple myeloma.  I described how I now spent my life writing about cancer, and traveling cross-country, speaking to support groups and meeting other survivors like myself.

Visiting with her reminded me that I had tried to hook-up with a psychotherapist several times in the past.  But finding one wasn’t as easy as it seemed.  Insurance would cover it, but I wanted someone experienced working with cancer patients.

And sitting together on my flight also reminded me that a young writer had submitted an article to me for my review and possible publication earlier this month.  So why not run it now?

Here it is, unedited as Melanie forwarded it to me.  It’s basic, but offers some good suggestions if you, too, may be in the market for some counseling.  And we could all probably benefit from some, right?

Psychotherapy: Popular Approaches for Cancer Patients

By Melanie Bowen

Psychotherapy is a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practice that focuses on healing the mind, body and spirit. Psychotherapeutic treatments can be an important part of a comprehensive cancer care plan. Psychotherapists use many different techniques to help their patient’s change the way they think and feel about cancer.

There are few risks involved in psychotherapy, according to the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. While it cannot cure the disease or improve survival rates, psychotherapy is a valuable treatment for patients. Many cancer doctors recommend the practice for a very important reason: psychotherapy can greatly enhance a patient’s quality of life.

What Does Psychotherapy Involve?

Psychotherapists are qualified mental health professionals. They help patients draw on their inner strength to cope with a variety of cancer challenges. Psychotherapeutic treatment can benefit patients no matter their cancer type, from brain tumors to treatable breast cancer to malignant mesothelioma.

The term “psychotherapist” is a general description for a mental health professional. Psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers and psychiatric nurses are examples of psychotherapy health professionals. Patients can usually get referrals to therapists from their doctor or other members of their cancer care team. The oncology department in many hospitals has psychotherapists on staff.

Some patients prefer individual therapy, while others benefit from family or group sessions. Psychotherapy is usually held in the therapist’s office, the hospital or the patient’s home; most sessions last for about hour or less. The therapist and patient can decide together on the number and frequency of their meetings.

Psychotherapy Approaches and Techniques

Psychotherapy takes on many different forms, from long-term therapy to short, problem-centered treatments. Therapists work with patients to help them understand their emotions, learn coping skills and more. According to the American Cancer Society, psychotherapists use a broad range of approaches and techniques to treat patients.

Behavioral therapy, also called behavior modification, focuses on replacing problem behaviors with healthy responses. This type of therapy deals only with the symptoms of a problem. Treatments involve muscle relaxation, biofeedback and other techniques.

Cognitive therapy, or cognitive-behavioral therapy, identifies the harmful thoughts that affect behavior and then works to change them. Therapists help patients learn to replace negative internal messages with positive self-talk. Treatment involves homework and various types of behavioral therapy.

Patient-centered therapy focuses on the unique feelings and experiences of cancer patients. Therapists offer empathy and support while their patients direct the conversation. This teaches the patients to help themselves so they can better cope with cancer.

Body-centered therapy addresses emotions that are stored or expressed as physical tension. This type of therapy involves movement, breathing techniques and other physical elements that encourage patients to release their emotions. Many cancer patients find this type of therapy to be very healing.

Couples and family therapy focuses on relationship patterns. The therapy sessions involve cancer patients and their spouses or family members. Therapists facilitate discussions to help families learn to communicate effectively.

In group therapy, a group of cancer patients meet with a therapist on a regular basis. Guided by the therapist, they learn valuable coping skills, share common concerns and offer emotional support to each other.

No matter if you are suffering from breast cancer, dealing with your mesothelioma prognosis, or are swamped with worry due to your leukemia chemotherapy; talk to someone who not only cares, but can help you in this time of need. Give your mind the peace it deserves and a vacation from some of your worry and indulge in one of these therapy session today and keep fighting back your cancer!

Don’t forget; a lot of caregivers could benefit from this, too.  Good luck with your cancer journey!

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat

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