There are times when family, friends, other cancer patients, or even your treatment team are not enough. If anxiety or depression become overwhelming, look for help from a mental health professional who works with cancer patients.
How Do You Know You Need Professional Help?
Dr. Jimmie Holland lists these reasons for looking for professional cancer counseling in The Human Side of Cancer:
- Feeling overwhelmed by fear and distress.
- A previous history of emotional problems.
- When treatment situations provoke anxiety.
- A recent personal loss.
- When parents or other family members have died from cancer.
- Sudden change in mood or mental function during cancer treament.
- Physical symptoms causing distress.
Both patients and caregivers may sometimes need professional cancer counseling. If you cannot eat or sleep because of distress or you are eating or sleeping far more than you did before cancer, a therapist may be important. And, if you feel so overwhelmed by fear that you are considering ending treatment, ask for help.
Finding the Help You Need
The first step may be with an oncology social worker.Oncology social workers have master’s degrees in social work and additional training in cancer cancer. They can provide counseling for patients, families, or couples. Sometimes they run groups for cancer patients or caregivers. Many belong to the Association for Oncology Social Work.
The US Department of Health and Human Services National Mental Health Information Center can help you find a mental health professional in your area.
In choosing a therapist consider:
- Can that person prescribe medication for you? If not can they arrange for medicines to help with clinical anxiety or depression?
- Will they accept your insurance? Is there a sliding fee scale to meet your budget?
- Are they experienced with cancer patients and their needs?
- Do you feel comfortable with the services they are offering you or your family?
- How will they handle emergencies if they happen?
CancerCare’s professional oncology social workers can talk to you over the telephone or help you find an appropriate counselor near your home.
Pastoral counselors combine training in counseling with spirituality. While they may be members of the clergy, not all are. And not all clergy are qualified to provide therapy. If your need is for a psychotherapist ask about the pastoral counselor’s certification. However, seeking strength from your spiritual advisor may also important during your cancer journey.