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Marie Polley introduces the importance of coping strategies when working with clients in palliative care

Do you consider yourself a ‘giver’ or a ‘receiver’ by nature? It is commonplace to find that therapists are the givers in this world, wanting to help other people. As practitioners we have been taught to keep ourselves healthy so that we can then treat others, however it is very easy to slip into focusing on others at the detriment to our own health.

Working with clients with cancer who are in palliative care can be extremely rewarding but can also leave you feeling emotionally drained at the end of a day. Technically, palliative care includes the phase when no more medical treatment is given to the person to directly treat the cancer (so the patient is terminally ill), and when care is provided to primarily control pain and support quality of life on all levels.

It is important to make sense of your own feelings that occur when you work with – or are thinking about working with – clients with cancer who are in palliative care. This line of work may make you face your own fears about death and dying, or revisit previous critical incidents in your own life.

It is fundamental to establish strategies that you can put in place to prevent emotional burnout, including reflective practice and clinical supervision, and the ever-more popular ‘mindfulness’ practice.

PS. Marie Polley will be hosting the lecture: Complementary therapies in palliative care (7 July, 2pm-3.15pm). www.fht.org.uk/50

Image: iStockphoto

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