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Coping with Cancer Interventions for the Family
Cancer & Family continuing education psychology CEUs

Section 12
Track #12 - How to Effectively Use 'Cancer Thought Time' with Obsessive Clients

CEU Question 12 | CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Cancer
Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track we discussed time management techniques. In my practice, I implement six interventions that can help foster productive time management.  These six interventions are the daily to-do list, directa box Coping with Cancer Interventions mft CEU delegation, familial delegation, Avoiding the Supercaregiver Trap, research services and scheduling phone time. 

On this track we will discuss compartmentalizing cancer thoughts.  Because obsessive thinking rarely solves any problems and it drains clients, this track offers strategies for avoiding obsessive thinking through compartmentalization. 

Share on Facebook Case Study: Robert
Robert, age 34, refers to himself as "a habitual obsessor."  Robert stated, "I can’t sleep at night because I toss and turn, going over and over my wife’s cancer in my head!  I ask myself, ‘How can I get more information?  Who can I call?  Why did the doctor say that!?  Why is my wife acting this way?  What is she not telling me?"  Robert was also distracted by the cancer during the daytime.  If he was out with others, he’d steer the conversation to the disease, and he wouldn’t listen when friends discussed other subjects.  Robert stated, "My mind is always wandering, always returning to my wife’s illness." 

Share on Facebook Cancer Thought Time
In order to help Robert begin functioning again, I felt that it would be productive for him to stop obsessing.  I stated, "Set aside specific times each to reflect on the disease, its problems, its challenges, and its meaning to you.  You can do this by writing about it, by talking to friends, and/or by meditating. Structuring this time will keep you from obsessing about the disease.  If you find yourself obsessing tell yourself, ‘No it is only 1:00 and my Cancer Thought time is at 4:30 on my drive home from work.  I can wait a couple more hours to think about this.’"

By setting aside time each day to focus on the disease, to give it his full, undivided attention, Robert learned how to compartmentalize his cancer thoughts.  At a later session, Robert stated, "Every time I obsessed about the disease, I stopped and told myself to save those thoughts for the time I had scheduled for reflection.  I chose the drives to and from work.  I visualize putting those thoughts in a box, knowing I could open it later." 

I responded, "It’s not always possible to set aside your emotions, but does this technique reduce the amount of time you spend worrying?"  Robert answered, "Yes.  When the drive times come, I give my full attention to the cancer and my thoughts and feelings about it.  Sometimes I call a friend and talk, releasing the emotions that way.  Sometimes I write in my journal, and sometimes I just take a long walk and reflect on our situation."

Initially clients like Robert may be hesitant to join a support group.  Might your client think he or she will become even more obsessed with the cancer than they already are?  As Robert stated, "Why should I go somewhere to talk about my problems for ninety minutes every week?  That seems awfully negative."  Yet before learning to compartmentalize his cancer thoughts, Robert was spending at least seventy percent of every day thinking about his problems.  

After a few months attending a support group, Robert stated, "I went from focusing on the cancer seventy percent of the day to probably twenty percent.  When I obsessed over it, I didn’t resolve anything, and I wasted precious time.  Now I talk about my issues once a week in a constructive manner during group.  I’m able to look at the cancer and the changes in my life and evaluate them in a way that helps me feel more in control of my life."

On this track we discussed compartmentalizing cancer thoughts. Because obsessive thinking rarely solves any problems and it drains clients, this track offers strategies for avoiding obsessive thinking through compartmentalization. 

On the next track we will discuss supporting the children.  This track includes four guidelines for helping your clients as parents dealing with children who are trying to cope with cancer in the family or of a friend or loved one.  The four guidelines for supporting children are preparing to tell the children, talking to children about cancer, evaluating reactions, and discussing cancer with multiple children. 

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 12
What is one strategy for avoiding obsessive thinking? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Answer Booklet.

 
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CEU Answer Booklet for this course | Cancer
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