Psychological and self-help therapies

Having someone to speak to, outside your circle of family and friends, can be a much needed source of support. Speaking to a counsellor or psychologist can help you explore confusing or upsetting emotions.

Group therapy or self-help groups, also give you the opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings. They can also be a good way of finding out how other people affected by cancer coped with their situations.

Sometimes negative thoughts and feelings can affect your everyday activities and behaviour. Therapies such as mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy aim to help you break cycles of negative thought. Therapists use techniques that aim to change your thought patterns to be more positive.

Sharing your experience of cancer with other people may greatly benefit you. Hearing your thoughts, feelings and advice can also be a great help to someone in a similar situation. We can help you share your story when you join our Cancer Voices Network.

What are psychological therapies?

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, 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 the benefits of talking about your illness. Your relatives, friends and carers may find our information on how to talk to someone with cancer useful when they’re supporting you.


Many people can 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 circle of family and friends, 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 on 0808 808 00 00 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.'


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, breathing and yoga. 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 both 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.

Group therapy

You may be offered the chance to take part in group therapy. 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. 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 health professionals, doctors and 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’re 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 very helpful to someone in a similar situation.

We can help you share your story. Find more information about becoming a Cancer Voice.