Counseling Cancer Patients
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
Most people endure emotional distress during and after cancer treatment. Psychotherapy, though effective, is under-utilized as a treatment option. Psychological reactions to a cancer diagnosis can include depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, and relational distress.
In this video, Dr. Ellen Dornelas demonstrates her approach to working with people with cancer using a cognitive-existential model focused on coping with the psychological complexity of cancer diagnosis and treatment. This video demonstration explores a cancer survivor's journey and unique psychosocial stressors. The goal of this therapy is to identify unmet emotional needs, provide support, and help the client to cope constructively with the uncertain outcomes associated with cancer.
In this video, Dr. Dornelas works with a woman regarding her adjustment to advanced breast cancer.
There is great heterogeneity to the types of people who seek therapy during or after cancer treatment. Presenting problems such as depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, caregiver distress and the search for existential meaning are commonly encountered across a broad range of clients with cancer, regardless of stage of disease.
Dr. Ellen Dornelas' approach to counseling utilizes a cognitive-behavioral approach adapted to be appropriate in an oncology population. Psychological distress experienced in the context of cancer can be made easier to bear by learning to shift thoughts and underlying beliefs as well as to strengthen the ability to cope with uncertainty.
The goal is to partner with the client in a quest to live the best possible quality of life in the current time and to explore and align their focus on relationships and activities that have the greatest value.
Ellen A. Dornelas, PhD, is a health psychologist who oversees the Quality of Life Program at Hartford Healthcare Cancer Institute in Connecticut and associate professor of medicine at University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She is the editor of APA's Clinical Health Psychology book series and the author of Psychological Treatment for Cancer Patients.
Dr. Dornelas is a Fellow in APA Division 29 (Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy) and has more than 20 years of experience in providing psychological services to medical patients.
Dr. Dornelas has been a co-investigator on multiple research studies funded by the National Institutes of Health and is nationally recognized for her expertise in applied clinical health psychology.
- Dornelas, E. A., Psychological treatment for cancer patients (2017) Clinical Health Psychology Book Series. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
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