Talk About It

Kirk Ditterich, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist
Kirk Ditterich, Clinical Psychologist

When I first meet with a patient or caregiver, I often just say, “I’m here if you’re in a tough spot—someone to talk to.” When people can safely talk about their fears, they become less frightened and feel a sense of relief. Even with a good prognosis, frightening thoughts may come up and talking about them gives patients and their caregivers an opportunity to look at those fears in a different way.

Life issues may become more intense because of treatment and talking about your relationships, family, or work situations can offer some relief. Talking provides an opportunity to look at those difficult thoughts and feelings and accept that they are part of the human experience when going through cancer.

Part of my role is to encourage people to believe in their own sentiments. Trying to convince yourself that you are “doing great” when you are in treatment can be stressful. It is tough to acknowledge that you are vulnerable, but that vulnerability opens the door for others to open up to you. It also gives others an opportunity to show they care.

Some people cope with their diagnoses really well, and I just work with them on recognizing their resilience. Others may look at their poor prognosis as an opportunity to focus on the renewed sense of love and connection with their family. For these patients, it is good to be able to validate their positive stories.

We look at each patient’s level of stress when they are diagnosed with cancer and continue to meet with them throughout their journey. Stress and distress are shown to drop after meeting with the psychology team and there are distinct improvements in quality of life during and after treatment for both the patient and the caregiver. That’s our goal—to improve your quality of life.

Kirk Ditterich, PsyD, does the important work of implementing psychotherapy programs to help patients create healthy life choices.

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