Psychosocial Oncology Program

The Psychosocial Oncology Program provides psychological assessment and counseling for patients and family members suffering from the typical anxieties surrounding cancer care. Patients often need help with symptom management (fatigue, nausea, pain) and other problems, such as:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Family distress
  • Communication difficulties with the health care team

During these uncertain times, the Wake Forest Baptist Health Cancer Patient Support Program continues to provide supportive counseling services to inpatients and outpatients via telemental health (i.e., telephonic and video calls). We encourage our patients and caregivers to pay close attention to your physical, emotional, and social well-being while we collectively work to prevent the ongoing spread of COVID-19. To schedule an appointment with one of our psychosocial oncologists, please call 336-713-6954.

Below, we provide you with selected opportunities to keep your spirits alive during this difficult time.

Ways to Cope with Stress During COVID-19

Take care of your mind and body. Mindfulness, deep breathing, guided imagery, prayer, and meditation can reduce stress. Include daily exercise such as yoga, tai chi, and stretching. Eat well-balanced meals, avoid alcohol and drugs, try to sleep 7-9 hours.

  • Virtual Gentle Chair Yoga Class Tuesdays at 5:30pm with a Wake Forest Baptist Massage Therapist. This class will include gentle movements, meditation and relaxation along with some breathing exercises to calm and relax the mind and body. Please email suevans@wakehealth.edu for a link to the meeting.
  • Yoga Video for Cancer Patients The Lifestyle Medicine Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center recommends an exercise program for cancer patients and survivors, based on baseline fitness, personal goals, and cancer therapy to minimize side effects, prevent loss of function, and improve long-term outcomes. Join Erin Sullivan, NP and Lauren Winters, NP, a certified yoga instructor, as they guide you through this yoga video designed for every level and ability. 
  • Tai Chi 5 Minutes a Day with a beautiful, natural backdrop, this easy beginners tai chi class helps improve muscle strength and balance, reduces stress, and increases more restful sleep. 
  • Tara Brach, listen to her podcast on practicing mindfulness.
  • Mindfulness Exercises are helpful for anxiety and stress. Try mindfulness apps such as Calm, Headspace, and Petit Bam Bou to help you when you feel worry and anxiety. Prayer/meditation is another way to engage in the present moment. Take a few moments throughout the day to reflect on what you need in the right here, right now. 

Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy. You may have to get creative when you are confined to the hospital or your home to find ways to engage with your favorite tasks. Read, watch movies, play games, complete a puzzle, pet your dog/cat/animals, etc. If you enjoy outdoor activities, consider ways to engage with them from home (e.g., research equipment online that can be used at a later time, watch video tutorials on a new skill, etc.)

  • Love the theatre? For a small monthly fee, you can watch Broadway shows on your computer, tablet, or phone.   
  • Love the opera? Currently The Met is offering free Nightly Opera Streams of some of their most popular operas. Tune in at 7:30 pm for a new performance every night.  
  • Love to travel? Check out the New York Times visually stunning article on 52 Places To Travel Virtually. 
  • Love museum visits? Access free online museum visits across the globe. 

Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Call, video chat, text message those you care about and check in with them. You can call them for support or talk about other topics to help take your mind off of your concerns. Consider calling those who may also be feeling isolated during this time such as other cancer patients, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions.

  • Want support navigating the unique intersection of coping with cancer amidst COVID-19? Cancer Care offers individual and group support to help you manage this time. 
  • Want to join a community to support you during our physical isolation? Lurie Cancer Center's Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program connects adolescents and young adults through Facebook. Game nights, video tips, and more.

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. Change up your rotation by including entertaining

  • Laugh! Ask you friends and family what they listen to and watch to laugh. Funny podcasts, funny Youtube videos, and funny TV programs and movies can lift your mood. Check out the New York Times article, “What to Watch During Your Coronavirus Self-Quarantine.
  • Relax! Decorah Live Eagle Cam: Watch live bald eagles on the banks of the Mississippi. Now in its tenth year, the relaxing nature sounds and upfront contact with America’s national bird is a great way to take a break! 
  • Reflect! Sign up for the Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day and explore other poets.

National Resources for Additional Support


Counseling for Patients in Distress

The goal of the program is to meet a wide range of patient needs. Most cancer patients and their families do not need intensive psychosocial care, but rather supportive service provided through our volunteers and professional counselors. We are able to take care of patients who are suffering intensely, as well as those proceeding through a “normal” crisis during diagnosis and treatment. In our own studies conducted in the outpatient clinic, we have seen that the new diagnosis is extremely distressing and yet, can be alleviated by a simple orientation procedure.

Counseling Services

A total of 6 oncology counselors including doctoral level psychologists are available for counseling sessions. These services include:

  • General supportive counseling
  • Specific behavioral procedures to manage intrusive thoughts
  • Relaxation training and stress managenent
  • Guided Imagery and hypnosis

This program provides psychological screening and quality-of-life assessment for all bone marrow transplant patients prior to transplantation.

Research Component

The Psychosocial Oncology Program has developed a research/evaluation and social teaching component within the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Current protocols are designed to assess the quality of life of patients undergoing intensive treatments. The goal of this research is to improve the quality of patients during and after treatment. Teaching activities include psychosocial seminars for fellows, and lectures to first and second-year medical students on Medicine and Psychosocial and Ethical issues in Oncology. Teaching activities also include chemotherapy classes within the hospital, as well as the physician’s assistance program on issues of delivery of bad news to patients and how to deal with death and dying. The program is funded through fee-for-service activity and grants.