Seeking Support: The Role of Family and Marriage Therapists in Breast Cancer Care
A diagnosis of breast cancer hits hard, even beyond the stricken individual. A study regarding “The Effect of Cancer on the Divorce Rate” described cancer as mentally and emotionally distressing for both the patient and their families. Yet, despite the struggles brought by breast cancer, the journey does not affect the risk of divorce and can even bring a family’s relationship closer together.
However, battling breast cancer is not an easy process; we understand that it’s difficult to overcome feelings of anxiety to support your loved ones. This is why therapists can play a big role in approaching these painful situations with you. When seeking outside help, counseling with marriage and family therapists is one of the most effective ways to improve family communication and quality of life. Through their assistance, families can properly reach out and find ways to acknowledge, assess, and cope with their feelings during a health crisis.
How do marriage and family therapists work?
Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are professionals who help diagnose and treat mental or emotional problems, specifically in the context of marriage, couples, and family systems. They attempt to repair volatile relationships and improve existing dynamics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the current number of U.S. therapists is 73,200 and continues to grow with as many as 8,500 job openings per year. However, this career is not easy to enter since it requires a high degree of education and experience.
Wheel’s guide to LMFT jobs (licensed family and marriage therapists) points out that these professionals need to earn a bachelor’s degree first in the behavioral sciences to prepare to serve couples struggling with various marital problems, including cancer care. Once they meet this prerequisite, they would have to take a master’s program in marriage and family therapy, along with 500 hours of client contact and a licensure exam. This remarkable level of training and experience equips them with the necessary skills to properly connect with their clients.
MFTs provide patients and their families a space where they can share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences. When necessary, MFTs also interact with the medical staff involved in a patient’s treatment. These additional insights will allow therapists to provide aid in the best possible way.
How can they help you and your family as you navigate breast cancer?
MFTs study the personal situation of each patient, provide talking points, and help families discuss tough topics to better manage their relationships and lives. As we discussed in our post entitled “Breast Cancer and Your Mental Health”, strong health networks that include therapists help overcome the stress that cancer brings. They help us work through emotions, which is the first step towards good communication and better mental health. Although it may seem embarrassing to talk about your troubles and fears with others, confronting these difficult feelings is essential for your family’s wellbeing.
Guided practices from MFTs also open up opportunities to build a care system among family and friends, as they can provide great comfort in dealing with breast cancer and even take your mind off the issue. MFTs can also connect you to support groups for breast cancer patients and survivors so you can engage in open discussions about similar experiences. Cancer should not control every part of our lives, and it’s important to find moments of reprieve. Eventually, communication will become easier for you and your family.
It can be difficult to open up for cancer patients and their families, but therapists are there to listen, encourage conversation, and find common ground for everyone. These challenges are normal when facing breast cancer, but help from MFTs makes it easier for families to cope and connect through hard times.