Clinical Psychologists and Counsellors are ‘talking therapists’, who aim to support people to improve their overall wellbeing and quality of life when they are facing physical or emotional challenges.

They work together with people to understand the difficulties present in their lives and to find ways of coping with emotional distress and physical health problems so that these challenges begin to feel more manageable.

Psychological therapists can give advice about the kinds of coping strategies that can be effective for managing distress, as well as work with people to find techniques best suited to their individual needs.

Such strategies may include relaxation and mindfulness exercises, as well as techniques that help people to notice and respond to unhelpful patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Our service is run by Clinical Psychologists and Specialist Counsellors, as well as trainee Counsellors and Psychologists.

Clinical psychologists have completed at least six years of specialised training and are registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Counsellors have completed at least three years of training, and are accredited by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) or the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

Finding out that you have cancer and then undergoing treatment can bring up a variety of feelings.

For many people, difficult feelings may also arise or persist after treatment has ended.

The sorts of difficulties commonly experienced as part of the cancer journey tend to include:

Anxiety, fear and uncertainty

A lot of people say that a cancer diagnosis throws their world upside down and causes them to question things previously taken for granted.

The future can often feel out of your control and you may have worries about your treatment and about what your life might be like going forward.

Low mood

You may feel low in mood for a variety of understandable reasons.

Sometimes people can experience a persistent feeling of negativity and a loss of confidence, which is also often accompanied by a lot of difficult thoughts.

Anger and resentment

Again, this is not uncommon and may be felt for all sorts of reasons, but this does not make it any less distressing.

At times, some people find that the anger may be so strong that it takes over and makes it difficult for them to function day to day.

This is not an exhaustive list and people are also often concerned by changes to their appearance, sexual difficulties, feelings of guilt, relationship problems, disturbed sleep and questions around spirituality and the meaning of life and death.

Having these feelings is entirely normal, but there may come a time when you feel overwhelmed by them and unable to cope.

Using the support from family and friends, as well as from your hospital team and charity organisations can be really helpful, and the hospital team aims to support you as much as possible with any difficulties you may be experiencing.

However, sometimes it can be helpful to access support from someone trained specifically in managing emotional pain.

You can request a referral to psychology via your main contact within your cancer team e.g. your consultant or Cancer Nurse Specialist (CNS).

If you request or agree to see a psychological therapist you will be contacted and offered an appointment by letter or telephone.

This appointment will take place at Great Western Hospital, or be offered via telephone or video call.

Unfortunately, we are unable to offer home visits but we can arrange to speak with you on the phone if needed.

The first appointment will typically last for around an hour.

Its aim is to get to know you, talk through the things that have been troubling you and see if you would like to meet again.

You will not be put under pressure to discuss anything that you do not want to but sharing as much as you feel comfortable will help the therapist to gain a fuller understanding of your concerns.

At the end of the session you and the therapist will jointly decide whether to meet again, how frequently and on what concerns to focus.

Please note that there may be a short wait before a psychology appointment can be offered.

If you feel you require urgent emotional or mental health support, for example, if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or are considering harming yourself or someone else, be aware that you can contact:

  • Your GP
  • NHS 111
  • Emergency services (999 or A&E)
  • Samaritans (116 123)