What is psycho-oncological support?

„When the body is sick the soul is suffering as well.“

(Reinhold Schwarz, 1946-2008)


Psycho-oncological support means giving attention to the soul of tumour patients and their relatives- without losing sight of a person’s body or social environment.


The target of psycho-oncological support is to accomplish a holistic individual balance. Here it must be emphasized that a tumour disease does not only concern the patient. The people in the immediate surroundings of the patient- partner, children, siblings, parents, thus his relatives- are involved as well.


Certainly the individual persons deal with different issues but everyone gets caught up in confusion because of the diagnosis. The world is out of joint and it is part of the processing to get back on ones feet. Psycho-oncology offers help for all persons affected no matter whether patient or relative.


In general psycho-oncological interventions base on the keynote that it is important to perceive losses, give them space and learn to live with them but at the same time not to lose sight of the obtained, unchanged and still feasible things.


That means the superior goal is to help alleviating the burden which emerged from disease and treatment, to support the persons affected while they are dealing with the disease and its consequences, to prevent psychic maldevelopments - a chronification (permanent condition) of the strains with its adverse mental and social consequences - as well as developing new prospects with the persons affected in this changed life situation.


It is about making the life with or after the diagnosis brain tumour bearable. For this purpose further help can be imparted or support can be given to solve new or old, already existing problems of life.


An important aspect of psycho-oncology is the high individuality of the treatment which has a significant influence on the success of therapy. Almost everything is possible but nothing has to. What the single patient needs for his balance and for the relief from his mental suffering is something only he knows in the beginning.


Each patient is in a very own life situation and thus starts from a different point when making use of psycho-oncological support, has special needs, notions and goals. So every person affected it approaching the psycho-oncological counselling with different preconditions, concerns and wishes.


To achieve a comprehensive support of the patient various employees of a psycho-oncological team can be deployed like medicines, chaplains, psychologists, social workers and social pedagogues. But also music therapists, occupational and physiotherapists, speech therapists and of course care attendants can belong to such a psycho-oncological team. This depends on the coverage area in which the team is working.


This multidisciplinarity – the collaboration of the various professions- enables the holism and individuality of the balance which shall be created.


The kind and frequency of psycho-oncological interventions follows the needs and resources of the persons looking for support. Each person is equipped with individual resources that are abilities of processing and coping, which it uses to react to demands and difficult situations and has already done in its previous life.


Deep life crisis quite often block the access to this coping abilities so that the individual adaptability is exceeded and a strain situation is induced.


The presence of a reliable structuring guardian is helpful in these situations to discover and activate the individual resources and offers the chance to debate and clarify the individual disease context as well as the existing medical problems. Companionship, counselling and if needed treatment are possible forms of support which can be utilised here:



  • assisting and being present in difficult situations
  • conversations in which proceedings of everyday life can be reflected
  • essential elements are the physical attendance that is the presence of the companions and if necessary specific assistance from them



  • objective information and assistance with structuring are in the fore
  • e.g. regarding support guaranteed by social law and its realization, like the initiation of rehabilitation measures or about questions concerning the contact with medicines, care attendants, family, friends and colleagues



  • topics are mainly inner conflicts
  • elements are the jointly development of solutions processes and thereby the activation of the capability for self-help as well as the verbalization of feelings and problems in conversations
  • targets can be: promoting the expression of needs and feelings, preparation of a new understanding of disease and life


Where can brain tumour patients find psycho-oncological support?

The mental experience and behaviour of brain tumour patients is very individual at every moment of the diagnosis and treatment. Good and bad phases change quickly and every day is a new challenge. Dealing with the diagnosis brain tumour is mental hard work which is why the often observed change of apparently contradictory moods and feelings is appropriate and comprehensible.


Psycho-oncological support can be helpful in each phase of the course of disease e.g. when the temporary useful natural defence mechanisms cause or maintain blockades in communication or when questions concerning social law appear.


Psycho-oncological support can take place in different kinds and ways resp. different coverage areas:



  • hospitals
  • rehabilitation clinics
  • palliative care units
  • hospices



  • psychosocial information centres (located in clinics or public health offices)
  • psychotherapeutic doctor’s offices
  • ambulant rehabilitation clinics



  • regional patient or self-help groups
  • “bridge teams” of integrated care
  • ambulant hospice services
  • cooperative, psychosocial counselling centres
  • helpline of the Deutsche Hirntumorhilfe e.V. (German Brain Tumour Association)


Psycho-oncological support is rarely offered to brain tumour patients or their relatives directly. It is still more common that the wish for companionship, counselling or treatment must be expressed from the person affected itself.


That is why patients and their relatives should not be afraid to ask their attending physician about possibilities of support in their local area. You can also contact a regional tumour counselling centre anytime or the helpline of the Deutsche Hirntumorhilfe e.V. under 03437.999 68 67 (on Tuesdays 10 a.m. till 3 p.m.)

back to supportive therapy


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