Psychological and self-help therapies

Like complementary therapies, many people use psychological and self-help therapies as a source of support during and after their treatment.

If you are having some difficult feelings it may help to talk openly with your family and friends. Speaking to a counsellor or psychologist can also help you cope with confusing or upsetting emotions. Your healthcare team can tell you about psychological support services at your hospital.

Support groups and self-help groups give you the opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings. They can also be a good way to hear how other people affected by cancer coped with their situations.

Mindfulness meditation is a therapy that aims to help you change negative thoughts to more positive ones. Therapists use different techniques to help you change your thought patterns. This can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Sharing your experience of cancer with other people in a similar situation can be helpful to you. But it may also be helpful for the other person to hear your thoughts, feelings and advice.

What are psychological and self-help therapies?

Psychological and self-help therapies are not complementary therapies. We have included them because many people use them as a further source of support during and after treatment.

There are several ways to get self-help and psychological support. These approaches may be used to help people cope with stress, anxiety and difficult feelings.

You may find that it helps to talk openly and honestly with your family and friends. The healthcare professionals caring for you and 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.

We have more information on talking about cancer. Your relatives, friends and carers may find our information about talking with someone who has cancer useful when they are supporting you.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation is an approach that can help you change the way you think about different experiences. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It helps you to pay attention to the present moment using techniques such as meditation and breathing. You are encouraged to become aware of your thoughts and feelings, without making judgements about them.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) are types of mindfulness techniques. They use meditation, yoga and breathing techniques, along with some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques. The aim is to help you change your thought patterns. Cognitive (thinking) therapy focuses on the ‘here and now’ difficulties. It looks for ways to change your current state of mind so that your thoughts are more positive.

There are a few centres in the UK that offer mindfulness classes on the NHS. They may also be available through your hospital or a cancer support charity.


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.

Talking to a trained counsellor week after week enabled me to deal with my fears and my frustrations, but more importantly, it provided me with a sense of empowerment.


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

Organised groups, where people with cancer and their families meet others in a similar situation, can be 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. They often offer different techniques and coping strategies, together with relaxation or visualisation. They can also be a good source of practical information and emotional support.

If you are interested in joining a group but are unsure about whether it would help, make some enquiries about it first. Or you could go to a meeting to see what it‘s like before joining. You may feel more comfortable if you take a relative or friend along with you. But if you feel it’s not for you, you don’t have to go again. You may find it more helpful and supportive to find someone you can speak with individually, on a regular basis.

Share your experience

Having cancer is a life-changing experience. When treatment finishes, many people find it helps to talk about it and share their thoughts, feelings and advice with other people. Just hearing about how you’ve coped, what side effects you had and how you managed them is helpful to someone in a similar situation.

We can help you share your story.

Everyone is so supportive on the online community, they know exactly what you’re going through. It can be fun too. It’s not all just chats about cancer.