Professional counselling and therapy
Coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis can be a stressful time involving a range of emotional, social and psychological changes. Adjusting to these changes can be a huge challenge for the person with cancer, as well as those around them. Lifehouse provides the following support services for those affected by cancer (including their families and carers) during this stressful time.
Our psycho-oncology service provides a range of counselling and therapeutic support services to help patients, carers and their families who are having difficulties associated with a cancer diagnosis, treatment, survivorship or palliative care.
Some ways we can help:
- Counselling for grief, loss or interpersonal concerns.
- Managing ongoing emotional distress.
- Dealing with reactions to illness such as anxiety or depression.
- Coping with treatment issues such as a fear of needles.
- Pain management strategies.
- Dealing with body image and sexuality concerns.
- Navigating complex relationship dynamics.
- Talking to children about cancer.
Our psycho-oncology team is staffed by social workers and clinical psychologists who have experience helping a wide range of people affected by a diagnosis of cancer. You can contact the team on (02) 8514 0025.
Social workers provide emotional support through counselling and other services. They can also help with practical issues like accommodation, transport, legal and financial matters, and accessing community and government support.
- Cassandra Sena – Social Worker
Cassandra Sena has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and a Bachelor of Social Work with first class honours from the University of Sydney. During her social work training Cassandra undertook a placement at Royal North Shore Hospital in oncology and haematology and has wanted to work in cancer care ever since. Cassandra is a member of the Australian Association of Social Workers (MAASW) which means she is dedicated to continuing professional development and upholding professional ethics and integrity. She is passionate about helping people strengthen their existing resources and tap into new systems of support. Cassandra has always had a keen interest in young people, completing her honours thesis on the care needs of young people with disabilities. She is a standing member of the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Team here at Lifehouse, as well as being a psychosocial volunteer for CanTeen.
Clinical psychologists provide psychological treatment and support for patients, their carers and families who may be experiencing distress from anxiety, panic, phobias, depression and other adjustment issues related to living with cancer.
- Dr Toni Lindsay (doctorate clinical & health psychology) – Clinical Psychologist
Toni Lindsay is a Clinical Psychologist who has been working in the field of oncology and haematology for approximately eight years. She completed her training in clinical psychology in 2009 and has been working at RPA/Chris O’Brien Lifehouse ever since. Toni works with patients of all ages, including children and adults, but has a particular interest in working with adolescents and young adults. Toni regularly attends professional development activities to keep up to date with changes in practice, and is the chair of the adolescent and young adult group at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. Toni works with a range of therapies including cognitive behaviour therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy as well as existential therapy. She is currently the Acting Team Leader for the psycho-oncology service.
- Nicole Ferrar – Clinical Psychologist
Nicole Ferrar has been a Clinical Psychologist for 12 years and has been working in the field oncology for seven years. She has a Masters of Clinical Psychology from the University of South Australia and has participated in regular professional development, training and further education ever since. Nicole has skills and experience in working with people of all ages, from young children through to the elderly, and she has worked with a diverse range of patients presenting with many and varied issues. Nicole values the opportunity to help patients extract meaning from their experiences and emotionally navigate their cancer journey with the support of therapy. She is comfortable working with patients from diagnosis through to survivorship or when they are confronting the end of their lives. Nicole feels privileged to work in the field of oncology as she finds that patients (and their loved ones) are very genuine in their interactions and communication at such a critical time in their lives.
Psychiatrists are also available to assist those who require intensive treatment or medications to manage high levels of distress, depression and anxiety.
- Dr Fran Orr – Senior Staff Specialist Psychiatry
Fran completed her medical degree at Sydney University and went on to obtain broad experience in general medicine in the hospital system and as a General Practitioner. She then specialised in sexual health and HIV medicine and became more aware of the enormous psychological impact of these and other illnesses on patients, carers and staff. As a result Fran became interested in completing her specialty training to become a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, and has worked as a specialist in psychiatry since 2000. Fran’s sub-specialty is consultation-liaison psychiatry (general hospital psychiatry) and she has a particular interest in working with cancer patients and their families. Fran enjoys being part of our integrated Lifehouse team and working with her colleagues to provide patients and their carers and families with high quality professional support.
Katherine Cameron – Specialist Counsellor
Katherine holds a Bachelor of Arts (psychology and history) and a Bachelor of Social Work (honours class I) from the University of Sydney. She has also completed studies in social work supervision, cognitive behavioural therapy, and bereavement support via the University of New South Wales, the Australian Psychological Society, and the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement.
Katherine worked as a member of the Sutherland Hospital’s social work department and St George Cancer Care Service from 2010-2014. During this time she developed specialist knowledge and skills for supporting oncology patients, their families and carers across inpatient, outpatient and palliative care settings. Katherine also piloted a number of research projects and staff training programs, aimed at enhancing patient-centred care, staff wellbeing and multidisciplinary collaboration in the oncology clinical area.
Katherine recently joined the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse psycho-oncology team as a Specialist Counsellor and is passionate about the opportunity to provide integrated and holistic care for patients and families affected by cancer.
Helping young people with cancer
Sarcoma and the Adolescent and Young Adult team
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be stressful at any age, but for our younger patients it can raise a particular set of questions. Will I ever be okay? Am I the only one?
At Chris O’Brien Lifehouse we have a special Adolescent and Young Adult team that works with people between 15 and 29 years old to help them adjust to the changes a diagnosis can bring.
One of the more common cancers of people in this age group are sarcomas, a group of cancers that start in the bones or the soft tissues. While it only affects around 1% of adults with cancer, it is much more prevalent in younger people and our Adolescent and Young Adult team sees many of our sarcoma patients.
The most frequently asked question our sarcoma patients ask is, did I do something wrong to cause this? And the answer is no; it does not come from eating the wrong food or from not exercising enough. Also, and really importantly, when our young patients ask this question it gives them an opportunity to explore some of the issues around it, from reactions to the illness such as anxiety or depression to dealing with body image and sexuality concerns.
The questions our young patients ask might start out the same but the discussions will always be different. The members of our Adolescent and Young Adult team are expertly trained to help.