Who can support you?

If you are frightened by your feelings and emotions, or if you are becoming very anxious or depressed, you can get help from a healthcare professional. This could be from your healthcare team at the hospital, your specialist nurse or your GP.

You can also find information about private therapists, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or counselling on the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) website. You can also call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm, for more information.

Help from your healthcare team

Many people get a lot of support from the hospital staff who look after them during their treatment.

If you are having cancer treatment, you will have a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or key worker. They are often your main contact at the hospital. They can give information and support to you and your family.

Help from your GP

If you have a GP appointment, try to plan what you want to say. It can help to write things down before the appointment. Appointments are usually short but planning ahead will help you get what you need from your GP.

When you are with your GP, tell them how you really feel. Focus on what you are most worried about. This will help them give you the most helpful advice or treatment.

You may want to take a family member or friend with you to the appointment. They can help you remember everything you want to discuss. After the appointment they can also remind you what the doctor said. Some GPs are happy for you to record the discussion so you can listen to it later. Ask if your GP if this is okay before you start.

Your doctor may refer you to one of the following professionals:

  • A counsellor
    Counsellors are trained to listen and help people talk through their problems. They will not give advice or answers, but they can help you find your own ways to solve problems.
  • A clinical psychologist
    A clinical psychologist is trained to understand what people think and feel and how they behave. They can help you look at thoughts or patterns of behaviour that are causing you problems. This is helpful in stressful situations, such as coping with cancer. They can also help people with their relationships.
  • A psychiatrist
    A psychiatrist is a doctor trained to diagnose and treat mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. Some psychiatrists are specially trained in looking after the mental health of people with cancer.
  • A community psychiatric nurse
    A community psychiatric nurse is a nurse trained to help people live with all types of mental health problems.

At the start, you may not feel comfortable talking about your feelings, but this should get easier. It is important to be open and honest with healthcare professionals. This will help you get the information and support that you need.

Talking therapies

Talking therapies can help many people, including those who have anxiety or depression. You talk to a trained therapist about your thoughts and feelings.

A therapist may be a counsellor or psychologist. You may meet your therapist regularly. This is usually once a week for several months. Some people continue to see a therapist for years. All therapy sessions are confidential. This means you can trust your therapist with information that may be personal or feel embarrassing.

Therapists help you recognise, understand and deal with your emotions. Types of talking therapies include counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy. You usually have an assessment first to find out more about your needs. The therapist can then use the talking therapies that will work best for you.

Counselling

Counselling can help you talk about your feelings. It is a type of talking therapy. At your appointment, you can talk to a trained counsellor, who will listen and support you without judging you. Counsellors will not usually give advice or tell you what to do. But they can help you:

  • cope with changes in your relationships
  • think about what is important to you
  • deal with practical problems
  • find new ways of coping.

Some GPs, hospitals and cancer treatment centres have their own counsellors, or they can refer you to one. If your employer has an employee assistance programme (EAP), you can often contact a counsellor that way. Ask your employer for more information about this.

Counselling may be free, or you may need to pay for it. This is more likely if you see a counsellor long term.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy. It can help you manage your problems better by changing the way you think and behave. It can be used to treat anxiety, panic attacks or depression, or other health problems.

The way we think can have a powerful effect on how we feel. People who are anxious or depressed often have negative patterns of thinking and behaviour. These can contribute to the anxiety or depression. CBT helps you to change these negative patterns.

The therapist will help you recognise the negative thoughts and help you find ways to change them. They will also help you find out which things give you a sense of satisfaction and pleasure.

Improving access to psychological therapies

In England, IAPT is a programme that offers talking therapies. These are for common mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. You can contact the service yourself. Go to nhs.uk/service-search to find your local service.

It is possible that IAPT will be expanded to cover more of the UK. At the moment, it is only available in England.

  • If you live in Scotland
    Call 0800 328 9655 (Monday to Friday, 1pm to 9pm) to access the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) telephone service. They will ask you to provide some details. They will then arrange an assessment appointment to discuss the service and how they can help. Visit www.nhs24.com/scot to find out more.
  • If you live in Wales
    There is no similar self-referral scheme. You will need to visit your GP for referral to counselling services through the NHS.
  • If you live in Northern Ireland
    You can call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 to talk to a trained counsellor. They will help you identify the support you need. They can then arrange a face-to-face counselling appointment in your local area. This is usually within 7 days. Visit lifelinehelpline.info for more information.

If you find it difficult to talk on the phone, you may be able to use email or online forms to get support.

Online services

Online services are available to support people with mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. You can use these on a computer, smart phone or tablet. For some people, this can be just as helpful as face-to-face therapy.

You may be able to use online services for free on the NHS. You can ask your GP or therapist, or contact the services yourself. If they are not available on the NHS in your area, you may be able to pay for the services.

Local charities and organisations

There are local counselling centres run by charities or counsellor training schools. These may offer support by phone, email or face-to-face through local support groups. You can also search online for low-cost counselling in your area to find an organisation near you.

Private clinics

Private therapists can often see you straight away. They can be expensive, though many offer lower rates if you are on a low income. Private therapy is useful if:

  • you want a certain type of talking therapy
  • you need quick access to treatment
  • you want to continue therapy for longer than you can on the NHS.

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
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Email us
Get in touch via this form
Chat online
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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.