The cancer care team: Psychologist

PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead

A psychologist can help you cope with stress and challenges during cancer treatment and afterward. Find out what a psychologist is and how they can help you as part of your health-care team.

Key points

  • Psychology is the study of behaviour and how the mind works.
  • A psychologist uses different techniques to help you understand your thoughts and change your thinking and behaviour to help you cope with stress.
  • A psychologist is not a medical doctor so they cannot prescribe medication.
  • A cancer diagnosis and treatment can be difficult to cope with but talking to a psychologist can help you develop management strategies that work for you.

What is psychology?

Psychology is the study of how the mind works and how people behave. Professionals who study psychology are called psychologists.

Many cancer treatment teams include a psychologist. This professional uses many different techniques to help you understand and change your thoughts and behaviour so that you can cope with the stress and challenges you face.

Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists aren’t medical doctors, so they don’t prescribe medication. They may be part of the health-care team that you see frequently. If a psychologist isn’t currently a member of your team, you or your family can ask your health-care team to recommend one.

Why talk to a psychologist?

Having cancer can cause a lot of changes. As a result, you may feel overwhelmed, worried, stressed or sad, or just feel different about yourself or your body. You may worry about something specific or just feel worried in general. These feelings are normal and common for many teens with cancer.

Dealing with tough feelings and situations is called coping. But coping skills aren’t something you’re born with. Coping is something you learn, and here’s where talking to a psychologist can help.

It’s a lot to expect any person to cope with cancer all on their own. A psychologist can help you find ways to cope with your feelings that will be useful during your treatment and throughout your whole life.

Sometimes it can be difficult to cope with the things that you need to do in order to manage your cancer and improve your health. These may include taking medication and completing other treatment 'homework' that different team members might ask you to do. Although these things might seem hard, a psychologist can work with you to make a plan so that you can succeed in doing the tasks that are difficult but good for your health.

A psychologist will make a plan that is based on your unique situation and goals. They will provide you with different strategies to see what works for you. For more information about how a psychologist can help you handle cancer, talk to your health-care team. You have nothing to lose and lots of important skills to gain!

For more information on coping and dealing with difficult situations, take a look at the Teen Mental Health Learning Hub.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019