Finding a Cancer Therapist
Since the abilities and styles of therapists vary greatly, finding a good therapist may not be easy.
Knowing the basic differences between psychiatrists, psychologists and other psychotherapists will help in your selection process. "Psychotherapist" or "therapist" is a general term used to describe any person, regardless of training, who is in the business of providing psychological therapy. Psychiatrists are psychotherapists who have completed standard medical doctors' training and an internship at a psychiatric hospital. The amount of psychological training a psychiatrist receives depends on courses available and elected during medical school plus whatever the doctor chooses to learn on her own after being granted a medical degree. Psychiatrists, being trained in medicine, are the only therapists who can prescribe medications in the treatment of emotional problems.
Psychologists are people who have completed four years of graduate training in psychology (attaining a Ph.D.). Master-level psychologists are those who have completed two years of graduate level work in psychology, although some programs are one year.
Social workers have attained a master's degree in social work; some social work schools offer little or no clinical training while others have well-developed courses in counseling and therapeutic intervention. Social workers can be certified and/or licensed. In the past, social workers were largely trained to provide social services in agencies. Increasingly, social workers seek additional psychotherapeutic training and establish private practices. Psychologists and psychiatrists can receive third party insurance payments. Social workers can receive third party payments, but depending on the insurance policy, there services may or may not be covered. Therapy provided by master's level, or non-degreed therapists can sometimes be billed through a supervising Ph.D. Check with your insurance carrier for your policy's specifics.
Lay therapists, and non-degreed therapists are people who have a desire or natural talent to do psychotherapy. They may have some general training in psychology or training in a particular type of therapy, but do have not professional accreditation. With the exception of severe disorders and people requiring medication, non-degreed therapists can often be as helpful as degreed therapists. There appears to be as many incompetent therapists with degrees as there are without them, which makes it all the more difficult to locate a therapist right for you.
How much do these folks cost? Generally, non-degreed therapists cost anywhere from $40-$60 per hour, master-level social workers a little more, psychologists $70-$100 per hour, and psychiatrists $100 and up. Fees will vary from person to person, and state to state, and can be higher. Insurance pays zero percent, fifty percent, and occasionally eighty percent. If you are in an HMO, therapy may be less expensive. Your challenge may be to convince the HMO that you need an outside therapist because your chances of finding a competent therapist trained in dealing with cancer patients within an HMO are slim.
Weekly therapy may appear to be a costly item until you consider the pain and suffering that can be alleviated and the satisfaction it can help you obtain in life. It can be absolutely cost-effective, if you find a good therapist.
You may have to shop around. As LeShan says, you want the grown-ups, the experienced
older therapists. Do not be embarrassed or intimidated to ask
questions, you are choosing someone with whom you will have an
intimate personal relationship. When calling to inquire, explain
that you are looking for a therapist and that you want to find
one that is right for you. Explain why you want to see a therapist
and ask they have had experience assisting people using LeShan's
Approach. If not, ask if they have any experience helping people
with life-threatening diseases, and if they would be willing to
read his book and use his approach ( see LeShan's Book, Cancer
as a Turning Point.) You can ask whatever questions you
like to know. You might ask them what questions they would ask
if they were looking for a therapist for the same purposes. Then
ask them the same questions. If they sound put off by your questions
you are probably better of with another therapist. Don't forget
to ask about cost and insurance arrangements.
Use your intuition. If they sound good to you, make an appointment. Have an initial consultation with more than one therapist. Initial consultations sometimes are free. You may spend a little extra money but finding a good therapist can result in greater progress and satisfaction using less time and money. When you meet the therapist for the first time, trust your instincts. Does the therapist listen well? Can you relate to this person? Do you trust her? Do you sense that she understand you, your goals, and what you are saying?
After you have picked a therapist, work with them for a couple of months. Do you sense a change? Do you think that you are making progress? Do you feel good about what is happening? The tricky part is that sometimes progress includes pain and we often blame the therapist for what we experience. It is sometimes hard to tell when we are running from bad therapy or from the result of good therapy. Good therapy, however, is usually marked by slow and supportive resolution of emotional issues paced to the individual. Good therapy is usually productive even though it may be scary. Good therapy is satisfying and generally feels "right" and productive. Trusting your instincts and results are your best bet.
Consultation and Referral:
Dr. LeShan is available for consultation and referral. He can be contacted at 263 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10023 at 212-724-5802.
Hour three of the documentary series CANCER:
Increasing Your Odds for Survival is devoted to helping
people understand and apply mind/body medicine and applying psychological
techniques in the treatment of cancer.
CANCER: A Turning Point - An Interview with Dr. Lawrence
LeShan, describes psychologist LeShan's research into
the psychological aspects of cancer and his development and application
of a new therapeutic approach that claims a 50% cancer remission
rate. Video includes a wealth of information for cancer patients
Cancer as a Turning Point: A Hand book
for People With Cancer, Their Families, and Health Professionals,
by Lawrence LeShan. An absolute must read for people with cancer.
Contains LeShan's suggestions for finding a therapist.
Human Operator's Manual:
How Feelings Work, A Psychological Primer By Stuart Zelman,
Ph.D., and David Bognar. This book is a psychological primer,
a manual on understanding feelings and how people function internally.
Although not specifically cancer related, this self-published
book is an excellent summary of the state-of-the-art knowledge
about feelings which can be useful healing information for cancer
patients and their families.