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What is CancerCare’s Individual Counseling Program?
CancerCare’s individual counseling is a free service provided by professional oncology social workers to those affected by cancer living in New York and New Jersey. CancerCare’s individual counseling uses a short-term cancer-focused counseling model to address the emotional impact of the cancer experience. This service is available in English and Spanish.

Who can participate in CancerCare’s Individual Counseling Program?
Some limitations exist due to the nature of CancerCare’s free programs. You may be eligible to participate if:

  • You currently live in the state of New York or New Jersey
    • You have been diagnosed with cancer and are currently receiving active treatment
      • Or you have finished your treatment within the last 18 months
    • Your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and is currently receiving active treatment
      • Or your loved one has finished treatment within the last 18 months
    • You have lost a loved one to cancer within the last 18 months

When might counseling be helpful?
Counseling can be helpful at any point in the cancer experience for you or your loved ones. At diagnosis, throughout treatment, after treatment, at the end of life or even after losing a loved one. Cancer is hard to deal with, and it is normal to experience many different emotions. Counseling might be helpful if you are experiencing the below and they are negatively affecting your quality of life:

  • Challenges coping with everyday tasks/issues (working, socializing, activities of daily living)
  • Feeling very anxious, sad, tired, or angry
  • Sleeping too much or sleeping very little
  • Challenges communicating your needs to loved ones or the medical team

What is a cancer-focused counseling model?
Cancer-focused means that our supportive counseling sessions help you manage the emotional stress brought on by a diagnosis, a loved one’s diagnosis, or the loss of a loved one. This means that while there may be other problems in life causing you stress (relationship issues, childhood trauma, severe mental health concerns, etc.), cancer-focused counseling aims to help individuals affected by cancer by providing emotional support to reduce anxiety and distress.

What can Individual Counseling help with?
The goal of individual counseling is to provide emotional support to individuals affected by cancer, increase hope and empowerment, teach coping mechanisms, improve communication with the medical team and loved ones, and offer practical information about treatment and resources in the community.

What information is needed to begin Individual Counseling?
To be assessed for individual counseling, oncology social workers will ask for specific medical and demographic information. When you call, an in-depth assessment will be conducted over the phone to ensure CancerCare can provide the right level of support. This assessment includes information about your mental health history and professional help you may have had.

What can I expect from the first session?
In your first session, your assigned oncology social worker will review CancerCare’s privacy and confidentiality policies and provide a Patient-Health Questionnaire. The oncology social worker will then get to know you and your experience while working towards establishing short - and long-term goals and introducing coping strategies to help you manage cancer's physical and emotional challenges.

Is what I said kept confidential?
In most counseling sessions, what you say is kept confidential. Our oncology social workers are bound by ethical and legal guidelines that ensure confidentiality, meaning they cannot share information about what is discussed in sessions without permission. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as when there is a risk of harm to yourself or others, or such as in cases of suspected child abuse.

I think my loved one needs help. How do I register them for Individual Counseling?
First, talk to your loved one about CancerCare’s support. Do they want help? Are they ready to talk about their experience? If they seek support through individual counseling, the first step is to have them call our Hopeline (800-813-4673). Your loved one must be willing to participate in the assessment process and provide information about themselves for the assessment to be completed. This is important because it ensures your loved one is fully invested in their emotional health and has agency over the collected information.

What do I do if I need help right away?
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call/text 988 (The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline), call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

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