Q8. Discuss the importance of psychotherapies with reference to cancer and AIDS patients.
As treatment for cancer has become more effective, it is better thought of as a chronic rather than a terminal illness. However, it is a progressive disease, and approximately half of all people diagnosed with cancer will eventually die of it. On the other hand, the treatment of AIDS is still being researched. The patients of both these and other terminally-ill diseases need care. Care is “the process of helping ill people with cancer and AIDS live as well and as long as possible.”
Importance of Psychotherapies
- Social Support: Psychotherapy, especially in groups, can provide a new social network with the common bond of facing similar problems. Members also find that the process of giving help to others enhances their own sense of mastery of the role of cancer patient and their self-esteem, giving meaning to an otherwise meaningless tragedy.
- Emotional Expression: The expression of emotion is important in reducing social isolation and improving coping. When unbidden thoughts involving fears of dying and death intrude, they can be better managed by patients who know that there is a time and a place during which such feelings will be expressed, acknowledged, and dealt with.
- Processing Existential Concerns: Death anxiety in particular is intensified by isolation, in part because we often conceptualize death in terms of separation from loved ones. Feeling alone, makes one feel already a little bit dead, setting off a cycle of further anxiety. This can be addressed by psychotherapeutic techniques that directly address such concerns.
- Reorganizing Life Priorities and Living in the Present: The acceptance of the possibility of illness shortening life carries with it an opportunity for reevaluating life priorities. When cure is not possible, a realistic evaluation of the future can help those with life-threatening illness make the best use of remaining time.
- Enhancing Family Support: Psychotherapeutic interventions is quite helpful in improving communication, identifying needs, increasing role flexibility, and adjusting to new medical, social, vocational, and financial realities.
- Improving Communication with Physicians: Groups provide mutual encouragement to get questions answered, to participate actively in treatment decisions, and to consider alternatives carefully.
- Symptom Control: Treatment involves teaching cognitive techniques to manage anxiety like learning to identify emotions as they develop, analyze sources of emotional response, and move from emotion-focused to problem-focused coping.
Goals of the Therapy Process
- Personalization: Facilitating an examination of personal and specific cancer-related issues.
- Affective expression: Facilitating the expression of here-and-now feelings
- Supportive group interaction:
- Facilitating supportive interactions among group members,
- Sharing group time and access to group attention,
- Avoiding scapegoating
- Maintaining boundaries
- Active coping: Facilitating the use of active coping strategies
* * *
Therapy for cancer and AIDS patients involves attention to enhancing social support; encouraging emotional expression and processing; confronting existential concerns; improving relationships with family, friends, and physicians; and enhancing coping skills. Such therapy approaches have been shown to reduce distress, enhance coping, and ameliorate symptoms.
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