Psychotherapy and Cancer

Various types of psycho-therapeutic approaches have been developed over several decades, and cancer patients may benefit from many of these interventions. The optimal type may depend on the severity of depression, stage of disease, functional status of the patient, patient motivation to participate in psychotherapy and patient interest in self-reflection. In addition, we should recognize that psychological interventions that have the potential to reduce depression include not only interventions delivered by specialists in psycho-oncology but also the support provided by medical caregivers as part of routine cancer care. Table 1 presents a brief description of the commonly used psychological interventions for advanced cancer patients.


Table 1.

Description of commonly used psychological interventions for advanced cancer patients

Supportive psychotherapy Utilized intermittently or continuously to help patients deal with distressing emotions, reinforce pre-existing strengths, and promote adaptive coping with the illness
Relaxation and progressive muscle relaxation Utilized to achieve control over skeletal muscles and subsequently to reduce a patient’s emotional distress
Cognitive behavioral therapy Focuses on recognizing and changing maladaptive thoughts and behaviors to reduce negative emotions and facilitate psychological adjustment
Problem-solving therapy Focuses on generating, applying and evaluating solutions to identified problems
Group psychotherapy Focuses on the expression of emotions in a supportive group environment to reduce negative emotions and promote psychological adjustment




Ref: Tatsuo Akechi, Psychotherapy for Depression Among Patients with Advanced Cancer, Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology, Volume 42, Issue 12, 1 December 2012, Pages 1113–1119 

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