Photos: Heino Klemenz


Psycho-oncology is a relatively young speciality that was developed in the USA in the 1970s. Initially, researchers chose some rather ignoble paths when trying to determine which psychological factors played a role in cases of cancer: some sought to show a causal link between certain personality traits and cancer. Nowadays, though, psycho-oncology has been firmly established as a scientific discipline.

In general, the task of psycho-oncologists is to accompany patients both during and after their cancer treatment, to facilitate the processing of one’s illness, or even simply to make possible the activation of resources and to deal with the psychological burdens that can arise alongside a cancer diagnosis.

In the meantime, the general opinion is that about a third of cancer patients are also afflicted with psychological problems, and most often suffer from depression and fear. In such cases, psycho-oncology — unlike behavioural therapy — does not consist of a standard set of procedures, even though the two make use of the same techniques to some extent.

In the hospital, psycho-oncology is now an integral part of the treatment concept and every certified cancer center must now have a psycho-oncological offer for in-patient stays.

In my experience, problems can also arise after treatment in hospital has been concluded. What one has experienced needs some time to be dealt with. Not all patients are operated on immediately after receiving a diagnosis, and often at the outset have no one who is accompanying them in all this. I hope to fill this gap with my offer of outpatient psycho-oncological care. My work in the psycho-oncology ward of an oncology centre, as well as my additional training in psycho-oncology with the German Cancer Society has made me exceptionally qualified in this area. Please feel free to set up an appointment with me.

Behavioural Therapy

Behavioural therapy, alongside psychotherapy and psychoanalysis based on depth psychology, is a standard set of procedures. This means that the Joint National Committee has recognised it as being effective; only such sets of procedures whose efficacy has been verified in scientific research are designated as such.

The term “behavioural therapy” covers a number of methods and interventions. There is no one founder or developer of the treatment, but because of its proximity to empirical psychology, this therapy is very dynamic and is continually being further developed. A good summary, in my view, is offered by the Psychology Scientific Advisory Board:

„Behavioural therapy is foundational orientation of psychotherapy based on empirical psychology. It includes both disorder-specific and general treatment methods which have as their goal—on the basis of our knowledge of disorders, itself adequately verified as far as possible, and our knowledge of the possibility of psychological change—the systematic amelioration of the issues under treatment.

Treatment measures pursue concrete and operational objectives on the level of behaviour and experience, are derived from a diagnosis of the disorder and an individual analysis of the issue, and pertain to the conditions under which the problem is predisposed to occur, does occur, and persists. Behavioural therapy, which is consistently being developed, can claim on the basis of empirical study to be effective.“

Behavioural therapy develops concrete proposals tailored specifically to you to support you in overcoming your psychological problems, and in so doing can help open up new vistas of positive experiences and other vantage points, even after a short time in therapy.

How I help you

In accordance with the generally established goals of therapy, I develop for each patient a personal treatment strategy that makes sense, based on the most effective methods according to current research. For you as the patient, this has a few wide-ranging results:

Identifying the problem

Usually, you know best what is going on inside you and what your difficulties are. I collect information as long as it takes until I can provide you with an explanation in the form of a diagnosis, which is a mandatory requirement in order to justify a course of psychotherapy. In less severe cases, something like coaching or counselling is more appropriate. I am of course happy to discuss what kind of indication presents itself in your case.

Developing a disorder model

Together, we then sketch out a model of the disorder. This means nothing other than finding out what makes you ill and what is allowing the problem to persist. But just as important are other questions: How do you want to proceed? What do you want as the end result? Based on the model that we have prepared, I will select measures which I think will be suitable in helping you find that solution. Variety also has a role to play here.

Finding methods that help you

Every therapist has a different arsenal of methods to help you, all of which have normally been tested in terms of efficacy. But whether a specific method will help you also depends on you. On the one hand, active cooperation is key. You should actively try out alternative ways of behaving, approach problems with the strategies we have worked out, observe yourself, and much more. On the other hand, you are the one who decides whether the intervention has had the desired success or not!

At the end of therapy, you should be able once again to enjoy your life as you did before the problem arose (and sometimes, enjoy it even more).

Trust, though, is important in this whole process, regardless of the standard procedures or individual method. Therapy can only be effective when enough trust has been developed in the course of the therapy.

The course of events

Initial meetings

In this phase, we get to know one another. Since all the necessary information for a diagnosis needs to be gathered, many questions will be asked, and both parties need to decide whether they want to work together. At the end of this phase, the therapist will apply to your insurance provider for cost coverage authorisation and/or financial assistance.

Therapy proper

This is the phase in which change is actively pursued. Here, depending on the indication, either a short-term (25 hours) or long-term (60 hours) course of therapy can be deemed appropriate, which usually lasts for half a year or an entire year, respectively. In some cases, however, treatment may last longer. The process depends as much as possible on what goals are set, but is also flexible enough to incorporate new topics that arise.

The frequency of sessions is usually once a week. Depending on the problem or method in question, a larger time frame might also be necessary, but this is all discussed in detail before beginning the course. Please remember that you will be requested in between sessions to try out different things, and this also takes time!

Further information

The German Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists (Bundespsychotherapeutenkammer) provides all the information you should need in brochure form, regardless of whether you have public or private insurance. See below for links to the brochure in English.