Counseling FAQs

Just what is counseling and how can it help? Find answers to the questions you may have about counseling here. Still have some questions? Feel free to contact us anytime.

+ What good will counseling do?

Counseling can help you find ways to cope with the mental and emotional pain you feel when you or someone in your family is ill. Counseling is an active, collaborative process that can help assist you in making changes. Counselors are respectful, nonjudgmental listeners who help you work through your own problems. Counseling is therapy for the mind.

+ Isn't counseling painful and overwhelming?

Counseling sessions are designed to provide a safe environment for you to express difficult feelings. Counselors are more than sympathetic listeners; they are trained to find the sources of personal problems and to identify solutions. Knowing what real options you have in a situation that feels out of control can greatly reduce feelings of helplessness.

Studies show:

  • "Mental health is fundamental to health ... The efficacy of mental health treatment is well documented." – Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General Department of HHS, 1999
  • "... psychological support—whether in the forms of individual counseling, support groups, or both—can become a significant ally in the fight against cancer." – Stephanie Hittle, Health Care Today, September, 2003
+ How does counseling work?

Counseling works by drawing on positive qualities that make any relationship work: acceptance, trust, consistency, and communication. Counseling is a learning process based on the belief that, regardless of circumstances, each person or family has the potential to change. Our clinical staff can help people deal with the emotional turmoil related to a cancer diagnosis and treatment, for both the patient and loved ones. Counselors and social workers help you resolve conflicts or problems related to others and the world around you.

+ What's a typical counseling session like?

It's not lying on a couch, talking about your childhood. In your first visit, the counselor tries to get to know you. She may start by asking, "How did you find out you had cancer?" Throughout an appointment, the counselor will help you see that your feelings are normal and are felt by many people. He may assure you, "You are not going crazy. You're going through a very tough time." The counselor will talk about finding ways to help you and your family manage tough issues. The counselor is not there to take anything away from you. With the counselor present, you may find it easier to talk to members of your family who are dealing with the illness differently than you are.

+ It's hard enough to battle cancer. How can I deal with mixed emotions?

Cancer affects three out of four American families, so psychosocial problems that relate to cancer are common. Fear, depression, and anxiety are felt by many. Typical problems include adjustment to being ill, stress about finances or employment, and disruption of marriage and the family. Counselors can help with these issues and many more, such as grief and bereavement, sexuality, and body image.

Sometimes emotional reactions to cancer come from other factors in your life. For example, the sense of dread induced by certain medical procedures can be magnified by long-forgotten fears. Your fear of becoming dependent on a spouse or children can be exaggerated by the memory of a family member's prolonged illness and the burden it imposed on the family. Another reason coping with cancer can be especially difficult is the possibility that cancer entered your life at a time when you are already facing other major problems such as unemployment, divorce, alcoholism, or a death in the family.

A counselor can help you find ways to manage your emotions and sort out problems in slow motion, prioritize them, and formulate a plan for dealing with them in a constructive way.

Back to top