Oncology & Psychiatrists and Psychologists

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When patients get a cancer diagnosis, they can experience a wide range of emotions—fear, anger, sadness, guilt, helplessness, confusion, anxiety, and more. Health care professionals, including psychiatrists and psychologists, can

  • Provide tools for managing these difficult feelings
  • Aid in the understanding of medical information
  • Suggest ways to improve communication between the patient and his/her health care team
  • Help patients successfully learn and practice new behaviors

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who often diagnose and treat mental and emotional illnesses and substance use disorders. In oncology, their training focuses on physiological functions and the relationship between emotional concerns and medical issues. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

The primary concern of psychologists is behavior. They have specialized training in the assessment of behavioral and mental function and can provide both individual and family counseling. They can be especially helpful to oncology patients who are seeking marital counseling, behavioral interventions, and strategies for coping with stress.

You can find a psychologist or a psychiatrist in the following ways:

  • Ask for a referral from your physician or a social worker.
  • Inquire at your hospital—especially if it has a cancer center or psychiatric department.
  • Obtain a list of providers from your insurance carrier or HMO.

Oncology & Clergy

People affected by cancer often turn to spiritual beliefs as a source of strength, comfort, hope, and understanding. Members of the clergy can help patients, caregivers, family, and friends cope with cancer and related issues.

Trying to make sense out of complicated medical information, confusing advice, and conflicting treatment choices can cause feelings of hopelessness and uncertainty and talking with a member of the clergy can help patients find hope and understanding. People who are diagnosed with cancer often feel angry, betrayed, or frustrated, and may question their faith. A compassionate clergy member can help them re-examine their beliefs and find renewed meaning in life. During spiritual counseling, patients can reassess priorities; evaluate accomplishments, regrets, and goals; and gain a sense of well being about life.

Cancer patients might need to talk about death and the afterlife—a complicated topic that touches the deepest emotions and beliefs. Many people find that it is difficult to talk about death, particularly with friends and loved ones. Discussions about life and death can prompt periods of intense personal growth. Members of the clergy are well suited to guide people through these issues.

Spiritual counseling combined with community worship can help people connect to a supportive and understanding community. Familiar religious rituals can give a sense of stability and calm fears.

Hospital chaplains are useful resources in the search for community-based clergy, religious organizations, and support groups. Clergy members can also give references to local organizations and agencies that provide support to people affected by cancer.

Other Resources for Emotional Support

Through Oncology on Canvas (sm), presented by Lilly Oncology, a division of Eli Lilly and Company, and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), residents of the United States and Puerto Rico who have been touched by cancer—patients, family members, friends, caregivers, and health care providers—are invited to express through art and narrative, the life-affirming changes that give their cancer journeys meaning.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 20 Jul 2001

Last Modified: 04 Nov 2014