How to Talk with Family Caregivers About Cancer

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Cancer affects not only the patient, but all their loved ones as well.
This book will guide professionals on issues critical to effectively and compassionately counseling caregivers and other family members, from dealing with their feelings of grief and despair and realistically fostering hope, to helping them provide emotional and practical support to the patient during the illness and treatment.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association
“[U]seful and insightful.”
“[A]n easy and enjoyable read, and includes good use of literature, relevant quotes, and narrative examples… [R]ecommended for psychotherapists and other mental health professionals… [E]xtremely worthwhile.”
MAMFT Newsletter
“Bolletino…crafts her experience in language that is at once recognizable and empowering, as she transforms the person’s cancer experience from an unknown pathway of darkness and fear into a meaningful and well-lit passageway for the patient, family and therapist.”
The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter
“Let me state at the outset that this is the best book on this subject I have ever read, and I have been active in this field for a score of years…. If you work with caregivers whose loved ones have cancer, this is the book to own, study,
and heed”
Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association
“[A] book every therapist should read. I would also recommend it be read by anyone entering the field of psychotherapy…. In the 30 years I've worked with cancer patients and their families, I have not found a book that so succinctly and thoroughly addresses the fundamental social, spiritual, and psychological needs of family members caring for a loved one with cancer.... As one who has served as a direct provider of hospice care, as executive director of hospice programs, as a provider of end-of-life counseling, and as a grief therapist working with separation, loss and integration, I highly recommend How to Talk with Family Caregivers About Cancer.”
Martin L. Rossman
“As a doctor who has worked with many cancer patients, I have studied how to help them with the difficult emotional challenges that can come with the diagnosis. When a beloved in my own family received a serious cancer diagnosis, I became so distraught that I couldn't think clearly and didn't know what to do. This wonderful book calmed me, focused me, and helped me stay present and genuinely helpful. Ruth Bolletino is a seasoned compassionate professional who can teach any caregiver, professional or family, to truly support people with cancer.”
Lawrence LeShan
“Without disciplined compassion and an open-hearted acceptance of other experiences and world views, the work of any therapist or counselor degenerates into the mechanical. Bolletino . . . demonstrates and teaches what psychotherapy is at its best: a human interaction moving toward both curing and healing. I know of no practitioners, advanced or beginning, who would not benefit from reading this book.”
Larry Dossey
“Seldom have I read a book that radiates such wisdom and compassion from every page . . . This landmark work will lessen the toll that cancer takes on caregivers, and in so doing will benefit those suffering from cancer as well . . .
Bolletino sets a new standard in insight, clarity, conciseness, and caring. Highly recommended.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393705768
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruth Bolletino, PhD in Clinical Psychology, is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City specializing in work with patients and family members dealing with life-threatening illness, and people dealing with crisis, trauma and loss She has published professional articles on topics including psychotherapy with people with cancer, dealing with grief and loss, ethical considerations in psychotherapy and medicine, and spiritual factors in psychotherapy. She has presented numerous lectures and workshops in the U.S., England, Israel, Argentina and Chile for patients, their family members and health care professionals, and has supervised psychotherapists in their work with clients with life-threatening illnesses.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Cancer Is a Family Illness 1

Part I A General Psychotherapy Approach

Chapter 1 The Experiential World of the Family Member: Where psychotherapy Begins 9

Chapter 2 Putting Traditional Approaches Aside 29

Chapter 3 Principles of Psychotherapy with Family Members 40

Chapter 4 Toxic Myths 51

Chapter 5 The Power of Expectation 64

Chapter 6 Dealing With Feelings 75

Chapter 7 Ethical and Spiritual Aspects of the Work 98

Part II Helping the Family Caregiver Help the Patient

Chapter 8 The Experiential World of the Person With Cancer 123

Chapter 9 Choosing Practitioners and Treatments, and Communicating With Doctors 137

Chapter 10 How Family Caregivers Can Best Help the Cancer Patient 156

Chapter 11 Children in the Family: Guidelines for Parents 176

Chapter 12 Dealing With Recurrence 192

Chapter 13 When the Patient Is Dying 198

Chapter 14 How Family Caregivers Can Best Help Themselves 216

Chapter 15 Afterward 221

Epilogue: Preventing Burnout and Discovering Unexpected Gifts 227


Appendix 1 Some Basic Facts about Cancer 235

Appendix 2 Some Basic Facts about Cancer Treatment 240

Appendix 3 Psychological Side Effects of Treatments 258

Appendix 4 Some Techniques for Managing Stress 263

Appendix 5 Complementary Treatments That Can Ease Pain 269

Appendix 6 Some Legal and Practical Preparations When the Patient Is Dying 271

References 275

Index 283

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 25, 2009

    Invaluable Skills for Caregivers

    As a physician whose practice is dedicated to supporting people with cancer, I found Ruth Cohn Bolletino's "How to Talk with Family and Caregivers About Cancer" an absolutely indispensible guide. Cancer affects not only the patient, but caregivers, friends and relatives of all ages. Each person suffers in his or her own way, and must be addressed individually.

    Dr. Bolletino's therapeutic strategies flow from her immense experience and her equally immense compassion. She sees her work as psychotherapy, but it's an unusual psychotherapy, for nothing is "wrong" with the people she counsels. If your loved one has cancer and you're consequently depressed or anxious or angry, you're normal. Thus her psychotherapeutic approach starts with a view toward acceptance rather than pathology. I sorely wish I'd had access to Dr. Bolletino's views when I studied psychiatry in medical school forty years ago.

    Many books in this field are written by academics, so opaquely that they confirm Mark Twain's observation that "the professions are a conspiracy against the public." Dr. Bolletino, on the other hand, intends accessibility. She writes simply and clearly, even about complexities. Her book will find a welcome place in our local cancer center library.

    Jeff Kane, MD
    Author, "How to Heal" (Helios Press, 2003)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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