Couples and Psychosexual Counselling
When you or someone you care about is trying to manage a diagnosis of cancer, it can be a difficult time and may bring additional strain and stress to the relationship. The physical and emotional effects of cancer and its treatments can affect both personal and sexual relationships. Couples may experience a range of emotions that prove to be difficult to talk about together. Sessions enable you to talk with and listen to your partner within a safe and neutral space. It can help you to explore your feelings and concerns, strengthen communication, gain a better understanding of each other and feel closer connected.
Adjusting to changes during and following cancer treatment can create difficulties within intimate relationships or how you feel sexually. Your body may feel, look, or react differently because of the effects of cancer treatments that can make you feel unwell or affect sexual response. The impact of this on your intimate relationship can often be difficult to talk to your partner about. Common problems include:
- Loss of sexual desire
- Loss of intimacy
- Difficulty in accepting changes to the way the body looks or responds
- Feelings of rejection
- Difficulty with orgasm or painful sex
- Inability to get or maintain an erection
Each appointment lasts for 50 minutes. The appointments will give you the opportunity to talk about the effect that your illness or treatment has had on you and your intimate relationship/s. If you have a partner, it is advisable that you attend together. This will give you both the space and opportunity to talk about the difficulties that you may be experiencing within your relationship. Exercises may be given to do at home and this is to help you to achieve your goals. Discussion of how you got on with the exercises will allow for progress to be monitored. You will never be asked to undress or do anything sexual in the therapy room.
A diagnosis of cancer, a course of treatment, the illness or death of a partner or friend can all create shock, fear and confusion. While some people are fortunate and get the support they need from family, friends and community, others feel isolated. Even those surrounded by supportive and loving well-wishers often feel deeply alone. People are often encouraged to “be positive” by their families when they want to express the difficult feelings they have.
Counselling with its combination of understanding, concern and neutrality can help people in this situation. Like a good friend or partner, the counsellor is warm and caring. However, you don’t need to worry about overburdening the counsellor, as you might with a friend or partner. The counsellor is able to bring an objective view to issues; their open-mindedness and impartiality can help you to explore difficult thoughts and feelings without inhibitions.
The benefits of counselling include:
- alleviating feelings of loneliness
- increasing the ability to communicate, improving relationships
- promoting the deeper understanding of emotions
- increasing a sense of control
- providing a fresh perspective and tapping into creativity
- reducing tension and stress
- putting people in touch with their resources of imagination and intuition
- helping people to find meaning in what is happening to them
Reflexology is a type of massage usually given to the feet, although it can also be given to the hands. The whole body is seen as mapped out on the feet – the right side of the body on the right foot and the left side on the left foot.
The organs or tissues in a particular body zone are linked to reflex points on the feet (or hands) and massage of these points treats the corresponding part of the body. There are differing views as to how reflexology works.
One view is that gentle massage helps to improve blood circulation and stimulates the body’s immune system. Another is that the body’s natural energy flow is blocked by illness or stress, and the reflexologist can feel a change in a particular reflex point that corresponds to the blocked part. Massage to this area can remove the blockage so that energy can flow freely again. A possible effect of reflexology is that massage encourages the body to produce its own painkillers (endorphins), which could lead to fewer painkilling drugs being needed.
If you are living with or recovering from cancer, these therapies can help you to cope with stress and help to reduce physical discomfort. Alexander Technique, craniosacral therapy, hypnotherapy, massage and reflexology are offered as one-to-one sessions at the Centre, Wednesday to Friday.
Our experience of massage at the Centre shows that it is a simple, versatile and extremely effective support for people with cancer at all stages of the cancer journey.
Massage has shown itself invaluable in helping people to:
- accept their body as it is
- regain confidence in their body
- become aware of their body in a positive way
- remember what it feels like to find pleasure and enjoyment in their body
Massage can be adapted to suit each person. Just having a face and head massage can bring as many benefits as a more extensive treatment.
The most common response from a client after a massage is “I feel great and so relaxed”. For many clients, having a massage is the first time they actually feel a sense of well-being since the onset of their illness, having had both physical and mental tensions stroked away.
One Centre member has written: “after having an amputation, I was devastated. I felt really low and lost confidence in myself. Massage helped me to put myself back together again”.
The Centre has practitioners offering the following forms of massage: aromatherapy, Swedish, and shiatsu.
Hypnotherapy is well-established as a supportive therapy for people with cancer. Sessions start with an explanation of hypnosis to ensure that the patient appreciates that it is simply a way of relaxing the conscious mind (and also the body) so that the unconscious mind can receive beneficial suggestions.
Once the patient has experienced a hypnotic trance they are taught self hypnosis, to be followed by:
- Guided visualisation
- Motivation to develop their inner resources and stimulate their immune system
- Help with building a positive attitude towards any medical treatment in order to reduce unwanted side-effects
- Encouragement to improve their quality of life
Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle way of working with the body using light touch. Changes may occur in body, mind and spirit during or after sessions. When a Craniosacral therapist places their hands lightly on you, they are using them to listen to you in much the same way that a counsellor might listen to your words. Your body responds to this sensitive touch by beginning to listen to itself.
The practitioner senses tensions in the body and helps to release them in a supported and comfortable way. During or after a session you may feel calm and energised, with increased clarity of mind and a feeling of well-being.
ScarWork is done primarily to improve feeling and functionality in the scar and surrounding tissues, creating better movement between the layers of the skin, fascia and muscle. Treatments use light hand movements to smooth and flatten scars in order to reduce feelings of tightness, discomfort, sensitivity, itching, and restricted movement. Treatments stimulate the circulation, lymphatic and nervous system to encourage renewed healing and promote tissue health.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) for people diagnosed with lymphoedema
MLD is an extremely relaxing treatment where mild pressure and a gentle rhythmic technique is performed directly on the skin on different areas of the body. This helps increase the flow and movement of lymph in your lymphatic system. Fluids are displaced helping to reduce oedemas, fluid retention and swelling.
Each 1hr session will be £45. Please call the Support team to book the first appointment. Most clients with lymphoedema book treatments on a monthly basis.