About Social, Emotional, and Mental Health Support
UT Health Austin’s Livestrong Cancer Institutes currently provides care to those diagnosed with or at risk of gynecologic cancer as well as individuals diagnosed with gastrointestinal, head and neck, hematologic, and lung cancers.
Our team of care providers, including an oncology psychiatrist and a clinical social worker, helps patients and their loved ones manage distressing feelings that may arise as a result of a cancer diagnosis and treatment including anxiety, depression, anger, loneliness, confusion, fear, guilt, sadness, shock, and other overwhelming emotions and experiences.
Who Should Receive Social, Emotional & Mental Health Support
All cancer patients and their loved ones involved in their care should consider receiving support from the time of diagnosis and beyond.
The goal of this support is to help patients achieve comfort, capability and calm, and to live as well as possible despite the stress of a cancer diagnosis. Our oncology psychiatrist and clinical social worker tailor care to the specific needs of patients, which may change throughout their cancer experience.
What Social, Emotional & Mental Health Support Looks Like
Our social, emotional and mental health providers spend time listening to patients. They need to know the goals of patients and their loved ones in order to work with them to adjust to their cancer journey. Depending on a patient’s needs and preferences, they may meet with a provider one-on-one, with their partner or family, or in a group of individuals with the same cancer diagnosis.
These supports are designed to help address issues that may arise with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Examples may include feeling isolated, family conflict, difficulty with treatment decision-making, fear about the disease, spiritual or existential concerns, accepting changes to appearance, struggles to cope day-to-day, lack of support from family, work or friends, grief, changes to one’s sexual health, communication troubles, or concerns with the cultural appropriateness of one’s care.
Patients and their loved ones may also experience distress related to practical aspects of cancer care. This may include concerns related to finances, maintaining employment, staying in school, coordinating logistics to medical appointments and procedures, help with daily activities, and cultural or language differences. A cancer diagnosis may also trigger or worsen preexisting conditions such as mood disorders, personality disorders, substance use, panic attacks, dementia, severe anxiety or major depression.
Our social, emotional, and mental health providers coordinate with the patient’s medical oncologist, advanced practice provider, and other providers so that the entire care team is aware of the patient’s needs and preferences. Our care team works with patients to address all of their needs, including physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual.
What Social, Emotional And Mental Health Support Is Not
To access social, emotional, and mental health support, a patient does not need to have a mental illness diagnosis. These supportive services can help anyone impacted by a cancer diagnosis at any point during a cancer journey.
Social, emotional, and mental health support is not a quick fix. To address the complex nature of feelings, concerns, and existential issues, particularly related to cancer, ongoing support might be needed. Our care team can work with patients before, during, and after treatment to ensure they have the tools needed to face a cancer journey.
Social, emotional, and mental health support does not necessarily involve medication unless a trained medical professional determines with the patient that counseling, talk therapy, and other interventions are not sufficient. When patients need medications for symptoms like severe anxiety or depression, the care team works with patients and their loved ones to determine what treatment works best for them.