Talking, counselling and support groups

If you have difficult feelings, it can help to talk to someone other than family and friends.

What are talking therapies?

Talking, counselling and support groups are called talking therapies. They are not complementary therapies. We have included them because many people use them as a further source of support during and after cancer treatment.

Talking about thoughts and feelings can help people cope with stress, anxiety and difficult feelings. You may find that it helps to talk openly with your family and friends. The healthcare professionals who know your situation can also be a good source of support. You can ask your cancer doctor to put you in touch with the psychological support services at your hospital.


Many people get support by talking to close family members or friends. But you may find certain feelings hard to share with them. It can sometimes be useful to talk to someone from outside your situation, who has been trained to listen. Counsellors and psychologists can help you explore your feelings and talk through confusing or upsetting emotions.

Talking one-to-one with a trained counsellor or psychologist can help you find ways of coping with difficult feelings. Some GPs have counsellors within their practice, or they can refer you to a counsellor. Our cancer support specialists can give you details of how to find counsellors in your local area. Call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 7 days a week 8am - 8pm.

Support groups

You may be offered the chance to join a support group. This is when a trained therapist (counsellor or other professional) encourages a group of people to share their feelings and experiences with each other.

This is different from a self-help group. At a support group, the therapist leading the group knows about each person’s problems. This means they can guide the discussion so that it benefits everyone.

Self-help groups

These are organised groups where people with cancer and their families meet others in a similar situation. This is often the first chance people have to discuss their experiences with other people living with cancer. These groups can be a source of information and support, and can provide an opportunity for people to talk about their feelings. They often offer different techniques and coping strategies, together with relaxation or visualisation.

Some groups are run by doctors, nurses, counsellors or psychotherapists in a hospital. More commonly, people with cancer run the groups.

If you are interested in joining a group but are unsure about whether it would help, you can ask some questions about it first. Or you could go to one meeting to see what it is like before joining.

You may feel more comfortable if you take a family member or friend with you. But if you feel it is not for you, you do not have to go again. You may find it more helpful and supportive to find someone you can talk to one-to-one, on a regular basis.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our complementary therapies information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    Cassilieth B. The Complete Guide to Complementary Therapies in Cancer Care: Essential Information for Patients Survivors and Health Professionals. 2011. 

    Ernst E, et al. Oxford Handbook of Complementary Medicine. 2008. 

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Dr Saul Berkovitz.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 31 October 2019
Next review: 31 October 2022

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.