Life After Breast Cancer Treatment: How Psychotherapy Helps

Life After Breast Cancer Treatment: How Psychotherapy Helps

A breast cancer diagnosis can have obvious physical consequences for the patient. These are the ones she expects. However, many women don’t realize that it also has psychological consequences. The truth is psychological counseling for breast cancer patients is more common than most people think. Talking with a counselor after completing breast cancer treatment has many psychological benefits.

There are many common concerns that breast cancer survivors share. The most common fear is that the cancer will come back. Many patients describe feeling anxious and self-diagnose every malady they experience from a sore throat to feeling fatigued to a relapse. Others feel a form of separation anxiety from their doctor, feeling that they are unsafe because no one is watching them as often as they were during treatment. Still, others find themselves second-guessing their treatment choices and wonder if they did everything they could.

Some common reactions to the diagnosis and the end of treatment can include:

  • Anxiety. Most women expect to feel anxious when they start treatment but are surprised when they still feel it when treatment ends.
  • Depression. Feeling angry, upset, and exhausted are normal reactions to the diagnosis, treatment, and the period following active treatment.
  • Chronic stress. Worries about bills, side effects, relapse, and other normal concerns are typical of breast cancer patients both before and after treatment.

Talking with a licensed psychologist can be helpful. Psychotherapists have experience helping people learn to manage emotional turmoil and recognize their triggers for stress and anxiety. Furthermore, they have experience diagnosing conditions like depression and anxiety.  They can work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan to alleviate your symptoms and improve your functioning. You will be working in therapy together toward the best possible  outcome and achieving your goals.

Goals of psychotherapy will vary according to the patient’s needs, but will likely include the following:

Coping Skills: A primary goal for the psychotherapist is to help their patient tap into and hone existing coping skills, as well as develop new ones to manage challenges that can occur after treatment.

Processing Emotions: Psychologists can guide patients in processing their feelings about their diagnosis, treatment, or changes to their lives in a healthier way.

Managing family responses: One concern of many women is the reaction of their spouses or children and how to help them cope with their diagnosis and treatment at the same time they are also processing their feelings and thoughts.

Stress Relief: Counselors teach patients stress management strategies that will help them stave off the negative effects of stress before, during, and after treatment.

Relaxation techniques: Help with specific relaxation methods for anxiety and stress management in the moment.

Problem-solving and Decision-making: Learning new ways to make decisions and solve problems the diagnosis and treatment created for patients is another important goal for treatment.

Grief Management: Therapists can give patients the tools to manage the strong emotional reactions including grief that are a common side effect of diagnosis and treatment.

Many breast cancer survivors need help identifying, processing, and managing the psychological effects their diagnosis and treatment have had on their emotional well-being. Psychological counseling for breast cancer patients is a great way to restore the emotional balance many cancer survivors lose during treatment.  Many women find that psychological counseling not only helps them adjust to life as a cancer survivor but also helps them to thrive in its wake.

Sources:

“Breast Cancer Survivors: Coping with Fears of Recurrence.” www.webmd.com. Web. 5 October 2015. http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/guide/coping-with-fear-of-recurring .

“Breast Cancer: How Your Mind Can Help Your Body.” www.apa.org. Web. 5 October 2015. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/breast-cancer.aspx.