Counseling a Cancer Patient-Case Study

Case Presentation Of Cancer Patient

The client, who would be referred as Lucy, is a 62-year-old Caucasian lady, who was referred to the counselor by her physician. The lady was being treated by an oncologist as she was diagnosed of throat cancer. During the treatment period, she had also suffered from coughing, weakness, painful swallowing, difficulty in talking and change in voice quality.

The treating physician felt the need for counseling and referred her to the counselor. The counselor was one of Lucy's acquaintance, due to which initiation of the counseling process was easy.

Counseling a Cancer Patient-Case Study

Presenting Complaints of Cancer Patient

Lucy presented with complaints of increased irritability and occasional emotional outbursts as she was getting frustrated about her health condition. Since cancer had been identified, it was difficult for her to accept her condition. After assessing the case, the counselor suggested counseling and psychotherapy sessions for the lady.

Objective of Counseling Cancer Patient

The Basic Aim Of Counseling Cancer Patient Was:

  • To minimize her emotional outbursts
  • To enable her to bear a positive attitude towards life.

Counseling Plan For Cancer Patient

Counseling sessions for cancer patient (Lucy) of one hour duration once in a week was planned. Approximately four sessions per month spreading over a period of two months would be required initially. Further following initial two months, one session once in a fortnight may be sufficient.

History of Cancer Patient

Lucy was a good looking lady, who had served as a professor for more than 30 years. She had been a very good cook and was appreciated by all for her multi-talented personality. She and her husband had been separated since 10 years. She missed her husband, who occasionally visited her.

She had a son who stayed abroad with his family and she missed him a lot. She stayed with her daughter, who was a medical professional and took good care of Lucy.

At the time of referral Lucy was retired and felt that her talents were no longer useful. She was getting frustrated that she was not able to perform those activities, which she used to earlier. Also, she thought that her looks no longer remained as they were before.

She felt miserable about herself and was extremely worried about the prognosis of her condition. She felt her condition was worsening and became more and more anxious. This added to her dissatisfaction, which resulted in emotional outbursts and clashes with her daughter.

Cancer Counseling Sessions

The initial two cancer counseling sessions were focused on enabling Lucy to narrate her story along with her feelings. She seemed to dwell much in the past and had a combination of worries related to her future. It was important for her to express her emotions before beginning to realize the present.

The next two sessions dealt with making her understand the present condition and feel positive towards life. This was to allow her to understand her present emotions and relations with others. She actually missed her husband and son and also missed being away from work after retirement. There was a vacuum created in her life and the news of cancer added to her emotional disturbance. She began realizing and expressing her real emotions to the counselor.

In the next sessions, she started feeling better about herself after free expression of feelings, but still needed much support. Her emotional outbursts were not given much attention; instead only the positive thought was acknowledged. This helped her remain focused on free expression and living in the present.

Lucy was given simple cooking activities that she had always enjoyed to remain focused on the present. In the next sessions, she was asked to write down about her present feelings whenever possible or whenever she felt sad.

Counselor's Role in Dealing with Cancer Patient

The counselor comforted her and enabled her to vent her feelings by expressing her emotions. During her narration, the counselor, kept on the positivity of the counseling approach and intervened whenever she had to be kept on track. The counselor was understanding and empathetic about Lucy's condition and emotions. The counselor encouraged her to act out a role play of her situation and that of her husband and son staying away. This helped her clarify her thoughts and feelings and also their emotions.

The counselor used the principle of instrumental conditioning and suggested some techniques to Lucy's daughter, who was the primary care taker. She was asked to ignore Lucy's negative remarks or unnecessary emotional outbursts, while carrying out all the other regular nursing activities.

The counselor encouraged her at every step and helped her gain confidence that she can still perform well within the limits of her health condition.

Outcome Of Counseling Of Cancer Patient

After a month of counseling, Lucy had begun to feel relieved and had slowly started to realize the present. She felt relieved and was happy to see that she could still perform the cooking activities very well and began taking interest in life. She was asked to continue writing about her feelings.

This gradually reduced her outbursts and she too began to see the brighter side of her life. She also started getting a clear idea of her present emotions and relations. The counseling sessions continued till she improved to a satisfactory level without any emotional outbursts.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: August 19, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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