“The aim of counseling Services department is to provide psychological and emotional support to the patients and their caregivers to combat the Battle with cancer and to improve their Quality of Life”.
Counseling is an integral element of Oncology treatment. Diagnosis of Cancer is devastating for patients as well as families. Patients have a whole plethora of queries in their minds pertaining to their diagnosis, treatment , follow-ups and survival, changes in their life, their life after cancer, their relationship with their spouse, children, work relationships, finances etc. Patients do speak to their doctors as well as Nurses, but someone who can understand each phase they are going through is a Counselor.
A counselor is trained to listen to the patient and the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual problems that he might face. Many times, in pediatric cases for instance, the family members need to be counseled more than the patient himself. A lot of it also influences the compliance to the treatment. At Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre, counseling department plays a key role in integrating patients with their relations, care providers as well as people with similar disease (Cancer survivors group).
A comprehensive Psychological and behavioral assessment on various Tests and scales for both adults and pediatric Patients is done for every newly diagnosed case in coordination with treating team. A detailed psycho-therapeutic plan is chalked out and patient is given sessions. At follow ups, patient is re assessed periodically.
The department of counseling at RGCIRC has a compact team of one Clinical Psychologist (Psycho oncologist) and two counselors.
Counseling is a process of one to one interaction between a therapist and the patient, where a therapist enables a person to talk about the issues or emotional difficulties that are bothering them. Expressing difficult thoughts and feelings through the process of Counseling can help the patient begin to understand them and move towards a way of dealing with the changes in his/her life brought about by cancer.
Key components of a counseling relationship
In a counseling session, a safe and confidential environment is presented wherein the patient or client can express difficult feelings that may be confusing or stressful to him. The act of focusing on uncomfortable emotions or experiences in a non-judgmental space can enable the patient to see things more clearly and encourages positive changes in the patient which can lead him to gain control over his life.
It is normal to feel distressed with a diagnosis of cancer or living with it. However, it’s important to seek help when the distress is long lasting and affects ones routine life in various parameters like physical, emotional, spiritual, and so on. Seeking help is also important when these feelings affect your ability to cope with issues. However, you may find counseling helpful even if your level of distress is not severe. Even a few counseling sessions will likely help you.
ROLE OF A COUNSELOR
OUTCOMES OF COUNSELING
The main aim of counseling is to empower the patients with the confidence to make their own choices and decision to explore ways to cope with their diagnosis, managing their emotional concerns and discuss ways to address and cope with any life style changes that might occur during the treatment process.
In addition to providing clinical and psycho social support to the patients and their caregivers, the department is also involved in taking regular session on Stress management for its Employees which includes Nurses, Front Desk Executives, Technicians and other staff at the institute.
ACADEMIC AND RESEARCH INVOLVEMENT
The department of counseling services at RGCI&RC is also actively involved in training interns from across the country from the field of psychology. The basic requirement for interns is to have finished Masters in Psychology or perusing the same and should have through knowledge and understanding about the basic concepts of psychology. Candidates have to appear in a compressive screening and an entrance test to get enrolled for internships. After finishing internships the candidates have to also appear in an exam and have to submit few case studies to get Certificate of internship from the institute. The department certifies five interns on an average every year, but is not limited to this number. Further information on procedure for applying for internship shall be received from Human Recourses department of the institute.
CMES, WORKSHOPS AND CONFERENCES
The Department of counseling is highly pro active in conducting regular CMEs, workshops and conferences on various topics and themes. The department has organized CMEs on topics like Distress in Cancer patients and clinical staff, Stress and burnout among Nurses and Oncologists, Communication in Oncology, Stress Management Techniques and so on.
The department has also organized and coordinated some of the national and international conferences like Lymphoma Survival Meet 2014, Lymphoma Survival Meet 2016, Breast Survivors Meet 2015, Breast Survivors Meet 2016, and many more and is always committed to conduct more such events in future.
CANCER SUPPORT GROUPS
At RGCI&RC, the department of counseling service provides a compressive team support to the support groups that are currently working at the institute. There are two diseases specific support groups in action at the institute namely Lymphoma support group and Breast cancer survivors support group called “Metri”. The volunteers, who are mostly survivors or more positively the winners of cancer battle, come every week to support the patients being diagnosed or getting treatment of cancer at the institute. These volunteers come every week to meet fellow patients mostly with same disease and share the experiences of their cancer journey to the patients. The main aim of these support groups is to provide emotional and social support to these patients. They discuss various ways to deal with the hardships and challenges of cancer. These support groups meet patients in the supervisions of qualified psychologists or counselors to make sure the process goes professionally and ethically.
The department of counseling services is very pro active in behavioral and psycho social research in oncology. The research papers from the department find their place in some of the leading national and international journals. The department has published extensive research papers in the areas of Psychological distress in cancer, communication in oncology, Quality of life in cancer, information needs in cancer, Cancer Related Fatigue, Tobacco Cessation and Life style in cancer, and prevalence of alternative medicine among oncology patients and so on.
“The diagnosis of Cancer not only poses challenges on ones physical well being, but its implications are also on behavioral, emotional and spiritual parameters. Our goal is to help you cope with the challenges of cancer and keep your emotions intact during the treatment.”