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Psychotherapy for Mesothelioma Patients

Psychotherapy is a kind of therapy that involves talking about feelings, emotions, and behaviors and is one way to treat mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Psychotherapy can also be enormously helpful for patients living with mesothelioma and other types of cancer. Taking an active step to fight back against the depression, anxiety, and stress triggered by cancer can help you enjoy a greater quality of life with your loved ones.

psychotherapy for mesothelioma

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a treatment administered by a trained professional with credentials in mental health care. It is a treatment that is designed to help a person better identify negative thoughts and feelings and make changes that are positive and impact thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Psychotherapy is conducted typically one-on-one and involves talking back and forth with a professional. For this reason it is sometimes also referred to as talk therapy. It may also be called counseling or just therapy.

Professionals who offer psychotherapy include psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists. Different states have different requirements for licensing of mental health professionals who offer psychotherapy. It is important to seek out only those professionals who are licensed and experienced. Therapists rely on evidence-backed, proven strategies to help patients overcome challenging thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. A recommendation from your medical team or oncologist is an excellent way to find a good therapist. Among mental health professionals, only psychiatrists are medical doctors and can both administer therapy and prescribe medications.

Types of Psychotherapy

All trained and licensed practitioners of psychotherapy use strategies and techniques that have been scientifically tested, but there is no single right way of working with a patient. There are several styles or types of therapy and if you choose to work with a therapist, you may try one or more before you find the style that works best for you:

  • Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis, or psychodynamic therapy, is a classic type of therapy that is based on the idea that emotional problems are based on unresolved, often unconscious conflicts. This may be something from childhood, such as a poor relationship with a parent, and talking about it helps a patient better understand their feelings and helps them to learn how to cope.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is a more modern and results-driven approach to therapy that is popular with many therapists and patients. It involves learning to identify and recognize negative thoughts and feelings and to take active steps to change those thoughts, which are often inaccurate, and to change resulting behaviors.
  • Group or Family Therapy. Group and family therapy involves working with a therapist in a supportive, multi-person setting. It is based on the idea that having support from others can improve the process of healing and changing thoughts and behaviors. For cancer patients, working on therapy in a group with other patients can be very beneficial.
  • Alternative Therapies. Some therapists practice various types of psychotherapy in alternative settings or with alternative tools. This could include art or music therapy, using music and the creation of art to discuss feelings. Others include dance or drama therapy and animal therapy.

Why a Mesothelioma Patient May Benefit from Psychotherapy

Patients living with mesothelioma have very serious physical health problems that must be treated. But what is often ignored in favor of addressing the immediate physical needs, is mental health. Issues like stress, anxiety, depression, and even suicide can be triggered by going through a traumatic and life-altering experience like cancer, and patients can benefit from treatment through psychotherapy. It can improve emotions, boost mood, and improve overall quality of life.

There are many ways that living with cancer, especially terminal cancer, can impact a patient’s mental health. A patient is forced to face death, but there are also many other issues that impact mental health. If you are living with mesothelioma and its symptoms, for instance, you may not be able to do all the activities you used to enjoy, you may find your relationships changing, you may feel helpless because instead of caring for others, you are being cared for, and you may also see changes in your body and appearance that are troubling. All of these and other issues can have a serious impact on mental health.

Psychotherapy can help patients learn to cope with the negative feelings that come with living with mesothelioma. They can help you change negative thought patterns, find relief from stress and better ways to cope with stress and worry, improve your relationships with your loved ones, teach you mindfulness techniques for coping in between therapy sessions, and provide a safe place for talking about your deepest and most troubling thoughts and feelings.

Studies have proven that there are positive benefits to psychotherapy for patients living with a terminal cancer like mesothelioma. One study found that late-stage cancer patients were able to find a better sense of peace and purpose at the end of life after participating in meaning-centered therapy. Psychotherapy can be an important part of palliative care, providing patients with relief, peace, and freedom from depression and anxiety.

Emergency Support for Troubling Thoughts

It is easy to understand why patients with terminal cancer experience negative thoughts and feelings, but in some patients these can become severe. Clinical depression is not uncommon and depression can even lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. If you are struggling with these thoughts as you battle cancer or you have a loved one you are concerned about, there are resources you can use to get help:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1-800-273-8255. This national network is free to call 24 hours a day and seven days a week. When you call you will be connected to a trained and caring professional at a local crisis center who will talk to you as long as you need and can also provide other resources and information.
  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC). sprc.org. SPRC is a group that provides resources and information online. It is a great resource if you want to find a different way to get help or if you want to provide a loved one you are concerned about with options.
  • National Hopeline Network. 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433). The National Hopeline Network is a free and confidential line that you can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can provide you with a caring person to talk to as well as resources related to both mental health and substance abuse.
  • Crisis Text Line. Text CONNECT to 741741. For those who are struggling and not yet ready to talk to someone on the phone, this texting service is another confidential and 24/7 resource. You can text back and forth or ask for information and resources.

It may be unsurprising to learn that suicide rates in cancer patients are twice that of the general population. Cancer takes a toll on the body and the mind, especially when it is a terminal cancer like mesothelioma. There are resources that can help, though, and psychotherapy is one way that patients can battle the mental and emotional effects of cancer and learn to live the rest of their lives with greater quality and joy than they thought was possible. If you are concerned about a loved one’s state of mind or your own, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for or offer help.

Page edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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