Monday 10th September 2012
Relate is providing specialist relationship counselling to people affected by cancer in Greater Manchester – Sue Parkes, Chief Executive at Relate GMS, says it is a much needed service.
‘I think that the person who has cancer gets information and support. But at no time did anyone speak to my husband. Maybe it would have helped and we may have even stayed together.’
This quote came from Macmillan’s report Worried sick
, which found that a cancer diagnosis can have a major impact on relationships. In the report, a third of people with cancer said that their relationships were put under ‘enormous’ strain, while a quarter experienced difficulties with their partner as a result of their cancer diagnosis.
In response to these issues, Relate
in Greater Manchester put a bid in to Macmillan to offer free counselling to people affected by cancer, and in January 2010, a three-year partnership was formed.
‘Relationships can buckle under something as serious as a cancer diagnosis,’ Sue says. ‘But counselling can really help adults, children, young people and families to talk about the tough stuff, on their own or together. This support is very individual and may be required at different times, for example at diagnosis, during treatment or after treatment.’
The service has now been running for 15 months and aims to:
- help couples, families and individuals make relationships work better
- help people talk to each other
- develop coping strategies
- help with sexual problems. All the services are available to anyone who might benefit, including people in heterosexual or same sex relationships.
Relate has been working with their clinical team, trustees and Macmillan to develop measures to evaluate the service and to note the changes people experience as a result of counselling. This has included the collection of data from evaluation questionnaires.
Both service users and professionals have been positive about the help provided by the counsellors. One service user said of the service, ‘Excellent counsellor, knowledgeable, focussed, analytical and well-prepared.’
A referring health professional said, ‘I have referred patients to the Relate service and the response from them has always been excellent – it really was no hassle and the patients were seen very quickly.’
From the 37 cases seen since April 2010, 73% said it had a positive impact on their relationships and 76% said they were better able to cope with relationship difficulties. ‘What’s really pleased us is that people are using the service and it’s making a difference,’ Sue says.
Plans for the future
The service aims to double its caseload and increase referrals to sex therapy by 2012. It has recently started a pilot ‘drop in’ service at the Macmillan Information Centre at University Hospital of South Manchester. Sue says this will give quick and easy access to counselling and hopefully raise the profile of the service. People will also be able to get support and information from the Macmillan information and support manager.
Working with Relate in Wales
Macmillan, in partnership with Relate Cymru, funds five Macmillan Relate counsellors to provide help and support to people in Wales.
Macmillan Relate counsellors Claire Lewis, Dr Rachel Davies and Ray Jones will be offering specialised support to people affected by cancer in an area stretching from Carmarthenshire to Bridgend. Claire will be supporting families in the Carmarthenshire area. She says cancer has a huge impact on families.
‘As well as the physical effects, people respond to the news in different ways and this can put new strains on a relationship. For some people it will bring them together, but for others it will create issues. We can help people work through a very difficult time in their lives.’
Ray Jones has been a family counsellor for 12 years and works with families, young people and couples. He said, ‘I have lost three members of my family to cancer in the past year and I have noticed that people are still afraid to mention it and will avoid the issue. Cancer throws everything up in the air and we want people to come through it with their family and relationships intact.’
Cath Lindley, General Manager for Macmillan in Wales says, ‘Cancer can leave a lasting impact on a person long after treatment ends. People usually think of the hair loss and other side effects of cancer, but often it is how it affects a person’s feelings about themselves that can be most distressing. This has an impact on the people around them.’
People can be referred to the Macmillan Relate Cymru counselling service through social workers, Macmillan professionals and nurses, their GP, or they can refer themselves by contacting Relate Cymru.
1. Macmillan Cancer Support. Worried sick: the emotional impact of cancer [PDF, 150kb]. April 2006.