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 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 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 very hard to share with them. It can sometimes be useful to talk to someone from outside your support network, 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 0808 808 00 00.

Support groups

You may be offered the chance to take part in 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 will be aware of the individual participants’ problems and will be able to guide the discussion so that everyone benefits.

Self-help groups

These are organised groups, where people with cancer and their families meet others in a similar situation. They can be very helpful. This is often the first chance that 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.

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 a meeting to see what it is like before joining. You may feel more comfortable if you take a relative or friend with you. But if you feel it is not for you, you don’t have to go again. You may find it more helpful to find someone you can talk to individually, on a regular basis.

How we can help

Macmillan Cancer Support Line
The Macmillan Support Line offers confidential support to people living with cancer and their loved ones. If you need to talk, we'll listen.
Macmillan Telephone Buddies
With a weekly call from one of our trained Telephone Buddies, you don't have to face cancer alone.
0808 808 00 00
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Online Community
An anonymous network of people affected by cancer which is free to join. Share experiences, ask questions and talk to people who understand.
Help in your area
What's going on near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you live.