Cancer Resilience Uncategorized

5 Tips from Breast Cancer Survivors on How to Live Fearlessly

5 Tips from Breast Cancer Survivors

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in support of breast cancer survivor and their loved ones; it is a special time to make sure the word gets out. You may have already seen things like pink ribbons, walks, and campaigns for a cure.

We’ve indeed come a long way in terms of breast cancer research and general awareness, as well as early detection. But, hearing the word “cancer” at any stage is scary and overwhelming.

Thankfully, because of the awareness surrounding it, breast cancer is often treatable and beatable. And breast cancer survivor stories are inspiring! Here are a few inspiring tips we can learn from those who’ve dealt with breast cancer head-on.

1. Don’t Compare Yourself With Others

Breast cancer can affect different women in different ways. It depends on how the disease has progressed, the type of treatment you’re using, etc. It isn’t fair to compare yourself to other people who have gone through it.

This approach to life is one we should all follow—we’re all different, and that’s okay. From Nancy Reagan to Sheryl Crow, each breast cancer survivors all have a unique, compelling story to tell.

2. It’s Okay to Be Scared

While fear surrounding a cancer diagnosis shouldn’t take over your life, it’s okay to admit that you’re scared or overwhelmed. That’s a normal response, and acknowledging it can help others around you to be as supportive as possible.

Perhaps you think that you have to be strong all of the time—you don’t. You can put up a fight and beat your cancer, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have moments of fear or weakness. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come to you naturally.

To this day, Christina Applegate shakes when she recalls getting the phone call confirming her biopsy results. The bottom line is that it’s okay to be scared. Courage means facing your fear, regardless of how you feel.

3. Ask For Help

Most breast cancer survivors know that it’s nearly impossible to get through this disease on your own. Again, you might feel as though you have to be strong. Or, maybe you want to prove to yourself that you can get through this without anyone’s assistance. This mindset is not uncommon for people to possess in everyday life, as well.

However, family and friends are there to help you. They’ll likely be more than happy to do everything from prepare meals on days where you’re too tired to mow your front lawn.

Don’t feel as though you have to keep up with the pace of life as you go through challenging times. Reaching out for help will give you time to regroup.

4. Adjust to Your “New Normal”

Breast cancer survivors (and all of us) can fearlessly live when they choose to adjust to the new normal of life. What does that mean? It’s a bit different for everyone, of course.

You might have to change everything from your eating habits to your sleeping patterns. Some people deal with “chemo brain,” which can cause your body to go through changes that you didn’t have to worry about before. These changes include graying hair, fatigue, etc.

You might also have to put more focus on rebuilding relationships and understanding your limits.

In many ways, once you’ve experienced a traumatic event, your life will never go back to being the way it was before. So embrace your “new normal.”

5. Seek Mental Help If You’re Struggling

If you’re in recovery and you’re having a hard time adjusting to your new life, you may benefit from talking to a counselor or therapist. Counseling for cancer patients isn’t uncommon. A counselor can help you from the initial diagnosis to living your life in remission.

Whether you were recently diagnosed with breast cancer, you’re going through treatment, or you’ve beaten the disease, you don’t have to deal with the ins and outs of how it affects your life on your own.

Feel free to contact me to set up an appointment, and let’s talk. Or, visit my page about counseling for cancer patients and their loved ones to learn more about how I can help.

Cancer Resilience Uncategorized

Chemo and Radiation: 5 Ways to Make Sense of the Emotional Impact

Cancer patients who undergo chemo and radiation treatment have to deal with a lot all at once. While these treatments are designed to kill the cancer cells, they impact your body in many negative ways as well.

Chemo and radiation can make you feel weak and sick. For many people, hair begins to fall out. You’ll likely start to notice other uncomfortable symptoms, too.

Most people tend to focus on the physical impact of chemo and radiation. Yet, it’s also important to recognize the emotional impact of the process.

To put it plainly, these treatments are difficult to go through. Not only are you dealing with a scary disease, but the treatments for that disease can be just as troublesome.

Thankfully, making sense of the emotional impact can actually make chemo and radiation easier to get through.

Let’s take a look at five effective ways you can manage that emotional impact.

1. Understand You’ll Have Ups and Downs

Just as some days you’ll physically feel better than others, your emotions may be all over the place, too.

Some days you might feel happy. Others you might feel angry, sad, or frustrated.

Accepting the fact that your emotions can change quickly is an important part of getting through your treatment. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel rather than getting down because you can’t always control your emotions. Ups and downs are part of the journey. 

2. Learn Your Triggers

One thing you can do to help you make sense of your emotions during chemo and radiation is to identify what might be triggering the negative ones.

When you have an idea of what changes your outlook from a positive to a negative one, you can take better control over it. Then, the emotional impact doesn’t seem so powerful or as extreme.

3. Identify What’s Really Bothering You

One of the best things you can do to make sense of the emotional impact of these treatments is to find out what’s really bothering you.

This is different from what triggered the emotions. Instead, you may have several things going on all at once aside from treatment—household duties, work responsibilities, relationships issues—causing you to feel overwhelmed.

Furthermore, you may hold onto those feelings for too long, causing the negative emotions to rise up. When you figure out the underlying cause of those negative emotions, you can focus on it, and work on strategies to get through it.

4. Don’t Go Through It Alone

Having a strong support group is invaluable when going through any type of treatment for cancer. The emotional impact is often too much to handle on your own. Plus, you shouldn’t have to!

Making sense of your emotions doesn’t have to be something you go through alone. Talking to someone you love about those emotions can actually make a big difference.

Surround yourself with people who support you and will be there for you. They can lift your spirits and provide a comforting ear to listen. Simply talking through your emotions with someone can help you to make more sense of them.

5. Counseling for Cancer Patients

Along those same lines, some cancer patients benefit from seeing a counselor or therapist. If you’re really struggling with how to handle your emotions from chemo and radiation, a professional can help you to work through your feelings and learn to manage them.

There is absolutely no doubt that going through these treatments is one of the most difficult things to endure. The physical, mental, and emotional toll it can take can feel crippling.

Being able to talk to someone who can give you the tools you need to get through it can make a big difference in your overall treatment.

When you better understand your emotions, you can put a different spin on the entire treatment process.

While chemo and radiation will always be difficult to go through, knowing how to make sense of your emotions can lessen the overall impact, and motivate you to stay strong as your body fights back.

If you’re ready to make sense of your emotions as you navigate the chemo and radiation process, I would like to help. Please, contact me today. Or, visit here to learn more about how I can help you.

Pre & Post Surgical

Counseling Before and After Surgery

Counseling Before and After Surgery

Surgery has been suggested to you because it is believed to be an appropriate medical choice for dealing with your current condition. Although you may accept that surgery is the best treatment approach, it is very natural to have some thoughts and fears around the “unknown”. It is important that you discuss any questions or concerns with your surgeon and determine whether counseling before and after surgery may be recommended as part of your treatment plan.

You may be relieved to know that there are other things that you can do to prepare for your surgery and also to recover in the best possible way. What your surgeon brings is his/her skill and expertise, which you have confidence in. But what can you bring? You have the ability to bring the most positive emotional attitude and lowest stress possible – to give your body the best environment for surgery and for healing and recovery afterwards.

When we are stressed – our blood pressure goes up, or quality of sleep/rest go down and our brains produce a chemical called cortisol which for short time and infrequent time is pretty normal. But when we stay anxious, afraid or “tense” for longer periods of time or to a larger degree this can spell trouble for our physical health. Any medical professional will tell you that chronic or severe stress complicates recovery and has a directly negative impact on your health. Whether before surgery or in the days and weeks after surgery – high and frequent stress put you at risk.

Only you are in control of your thoughts and in turn the emotions that you will experience and even how your body may respond. The mind and the body are connected in an amazing way and your belief in “yourself” and in the healing process is important for your overall recovery. By taking an active approach to your healing and recovery, you become an important and active team member along with your surgeon and the other health professionals taking care of you.

It can be empowering to know that there are real, tangible ways for you to prepare for surgery and optimize your healing and recovery after return home. Even if you are challenged with an ongoing illness that you must still manage after surgery, there are valuable skills that you can learn that may help you cope better and help you live a full, active and engaged life.

The overall experience and outcome of surgery can be enhanced when you make the choice to take an active role in your healing and recovery. The stress of a diagnosis, an illness or injury, the impending surgery and the recovery process all can have a significant impact on your physical, psychological and social state. From the time a decision is made to have an operation until the recovery is complete, there are major physical and psychological processes that can either enhance or impede healing and recovery.

Your body is an incredible gift and it has within it the wisdom and power to influence your emotional and physical well-being. There is no such thing as failure…health and healing are a lifelong journey. There are times that the goal may not be for a cure or even for complete recovery. Instead, the rewards could come from discovering new aspects of life and your truest, most authentic self, from new lessons learned to the joy of facing difficult challenges, or from the deepening of relationships and the appreciation of the unique preciousness of your own life.

Whether you are dealing with an illness, preparing for surgery or concerned about your recovery, it is my hope that you would know that there is assistance available to guide you along your journey. If you would like to discuss any of the issues addressed above or if counseling before and after surgery may be right for you, please feel free to contact me for a consultation.

Want to learn how you can become an active partner in  your recovery process?

Call Now (346)-493-6181

Our brain was built for learning and survival. We have to teach it to be happy.

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.

Counseling Before and After Surgery

Organ Transplant

Counseling Organ Transplant Patients

Counseling for Organ Transplant Patients

Having trouble sleeping? Finding it hard to focus on anything else? Tensions building between you and your loved ones? Organ transplant surgery is an amazing life-extending medical marvel – it’s also a very taxing process; on you and your closest circle of supporters. Whether you are waiting for an organ donor match to come up or adjusting to the changes that follow – organ transplant surgery is both exciting and stressful. Each person will travel this journey a little differently, your
experience is personal and parts of it very unique to you. Counseling for organ transplant patients helps clients live their best life every day, before and after surgery.

But keep in mind that all surgery, especially organ transplant surgery, no matter how successful is still a traumatic experience for your body. And what affects the body also affects the mind – there’s an integrity of experience here that in it’s best condition keeps us grounded, clear and working towards keeping a healthy balance in life. It’s perfectly normal to experience a full spectrum of emotions and feelings – anxiety affects us all. If sleep problems, irritability, adjusting to new health requirements, poor memory or focus and intrusive worries are plaguing you – before or after transplant surgery – I’d like to help. Counseling with a seasoned, counselor who specializes in working with organ transplant and medical patients can make a big difference.

Your Reactions Are Normal, The Situation Is Not

Most people go through their lives not really giving a second thought to the stress associated with surgery; why would they? But all surgery – even your successful organ transplant – is a hardship and an intrusion to your body. Just because it helps doesn’t mean the experience isn’t difficult. Surgery is a traumatic experience for the body and it’s pretty common for your emotions and thoughts to respond to this as well. Anxiety before or after surgery is to be expected. For some patients this may be periodic and mild stress reactions. Others may experience, insomnia, panic attacks, relationship strains and more. It’s important to keep in mind that you are likely having normal reactions to an abnormal experience.

When facing a challenging period in your life, your positive and peaceful frame of mind can be one of the best preventative medicines. Here’s an example; stress often invokes the production of cortisol in the brain. While cortisol is a natural and necessary function – too much, too frequently can actually diminish your physical health. Being your healthiest you possible as you are preparing for your new liver or kidney or maintaining optimum physical health after your successful surgery are very important goals that you are facing. Not addressing the stress and anxiety you are experiencing actually puts a hardship on your health. To ensure your best outcomes – it’s extremely important to manage your anxiety as best you can.

How I Can Help You Now

In my practice I keep the counseling experience personal, pragmatic and applicable. I meet each person with compassion and always preserve their dignity. It’s a challenging journey and making the decision to do everything possible to come out ahead takes real courage. In our sessions you will learn how your brain and body respond to stress, gain concrete tools for reducing and managing your anxiety and practice skills that increase your focus and encourage a healthier and happier frame of mind as you transition through each stage of your organ transplant process.


I have been working with patients struggling to balance severe medical conditions, anxiety and depression for over twenty years. I work with patients and their family/loved ones who provide caregiver support. I am nationally board certified and a fully and independently licensed professional and perhaps more important to know is that I am very dedicated to my patients and the constant growth of my specialties; including counseling organ transplant patients.

Why Your Journey Matters To Me

More personally, I have been through several years of a progressive and debilitating illness before a successful surgery intervened. I understand personally the strain, fears and confusion that plague us as we face and deal with an illness, manage the relationships with our loved ones and adjust to life after surgery. That call, from deep inside that drives us towards a life where we can be healthy, be whole and live more fully in every precious day we have is one that I have heard and continue to answer.

The many years of seasoned professional experience, paired with the understanding that only comes from a shared experience, puts me in a unique position to be able to help my clients who are facing serious medical challenges. I pull from neurology, physiology, cognitive-behavioral therapy, solution-focused and brief therapy and even Eastern practices such as mindfulness when counseling transplant patients to help guide my clients through this life transition successfully.

If you have questions or would like to talk about whether this is a good fit for you (or one of your patients), please feel free to call me directly at 832-498-7071. I always offer a free, 20 minute phone consult and am happy to talk with you. You can also find loads of articles on an array of subjects on our blog at Live Better Live Now.

It’s a courageous and overwhelming path you are on. I’d like to help.

Call Now (346)-493-6181


Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.

Cancer & Medical Uncategorized

Heart Disease and Depression

Heart Disease and Depression

I am feeling depressed after my heart attack. What can I do?
Don’t be ashamed or surprised if you are having some depressed feelings after your heart attack, heart surgery or stroke. Heart disease and depression are more common than you might think.

It’s not uncommon at all and you are definitely not alone. Your attentive physician will likely have you evaluated for depression after a heart attack and further direct you for appropriate treatment if it is determined that you have clinically significant symptoms of depression. Be open about this assessment. Depression is a treatable condition. Reducing your suffering and increasing your zest and enjoyment of life is good for you. Quality of life is everything. Part of your recovery includes taking care of the depression that can follow.

“When it comes to a heart attack or stroke – people typically think of the physical challenges. But the emotional taxing of our well-being that commonly follows is often overlooked, but very real.”
– Benjamin W. Carrettin, 2011 –


Be active in your cardiac recovery!

Follow your physicians plan for you, take your medications as your physician prescribed, adopt the diet and exercise recommendations, be vigilant in your attendance to your cardiac rehab program, and of course, spend time with your trusted friends and family. And if your physician feels that counseling is warranted – welcome the suggestion. Patients with heart disease who have a trusted confidant with whom they can share distressing thoughts and feelings have been found in prior research to have lower mortality rates. Even though there is no guarantee that counseling after a heart attack or surgery will prolong your life we do know that effective treatment of depression can reduce suffering and improve your quality of life.

I’ve never been to a counselor before. How does it work?
Breathe. Initially, you may be a bit nervous, but counseling should seem in many ways just like having a conversation with a trusted friend. I will ask questions, listen carefully to you and make suggestions. I consider my clients to be the reigning authority on the details of their own lives and as experts, together, we work to improve the quality of yours. While I am diligent and dedicated to my profession, I am also committed to ensuring that my clients are treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Please feel welcome to call me anytime with your questions or concerns. I’d be happy to talk with you.

Heart Disease and Depression: The Undeniable Link and How to Deal With It

The relationship between heart disease and depression can be seen as a two-way street. According to several studies that have been conducted in the past, around 15% of people with cardiovascular disease and 20% of those who have undergone heart surgery are suffering from major depression. In the same way, a high percentage of people with depression show symptoms of heart disease even if they do not seem to have any cardiovascular problem in the past. With this, it is important to recognize the problem as soon as possible, and consequently, identify the courses of action that will prove to be necessary before it becomes too late.

What is Depression?

For most of us, feeling sad and moody is a common occurrence. If you remember a sad event in your life or if you miss someone, you will most possibly delve into negative emotions. However, for some people, this sadness is experienced in a manner that is more intense and longer, such as for several weeks. In some cases, they experience being sad with no significant reason at all. This is most probably one of the most obvious signs of depression. It is a condition that goes beyond having a low mood as it can have a significant impact on one’s overall state of health.

Depressive disorders can be a result of different factors, such as physical health, family history, stress, imbalance in the chemicals in the body, and environment, among others. When a person is experiencing depression, it is common to feel bad about one self, to lose productivity at work, to forget about loved ones, and to have a change in attitude. Behaviors and attitudes will be the basis of diagnosing if a person is possibly depressed or not. The good news, however, is that there are depression treatments that are promising in terms of being able to resolve the problem.

Among others, the following are some of the most common symptoms of depression:

Loss of interest in socialization

Dependence on drugs and alcohol

Inability to concentrate

Lack of productivity at work

Difficulty sleeping

Feeling invaluable

Having suicidal thoughts

Loss of appetite


Heart Disease and Psychological Impacts

For people who have recently had a heart attack or any other cardiovascular disease, it is apparent that their life is being affected in ways more than one. For instance, following such occurrence, it is normal for the patient to have a change in mood and attitude, have embarrassment and self-doubt, feel worthless, especially if the disease renders one of being incapable to work, and feeling guilty about having a bad lifestyle in the past that has resulted into such condition. Most people become filled with anxiety and uncertainty, which, consequently, can be one of the most common symptoms of depression.

The Relationship between Heart Disease and Depression

In many studies in the past, the link between these common health problems have been explored, and without any surprise, many of them have concluded how the two are indeed related to each other. For instance, in one study, it has been asserted that the presence of depression even after recovery from a heart attack can increase the chance of mortality by as much as 17%, as against the 3% rate of mortality among people who are no longer showing signs of depression. In addition, it has also been asserted that people who are suffering from depressive symptoms show an increase in platelet reactivity, which is one of the factors that trigger cardiovascular diseases. More so, another study has revealed that people who are suffering from heart disease and depression noted a lower quality of life. It is also worth noting that a person who is suffering from depression may be more likely to resort to negative habits, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, both of which will make one at higher risk of having heart disease.

Treatment Options

One of the most common options for the treatment of depression is through the use of medications,  which are prescribed by a doctor. (Remember, do not simply go to taking medicines if they are not prescribed by your physician as doing this can worsen the problem rather than having it resolved.) The most common would be anti-depressant medicines, including selective serotonin uptake inhibitors. Doctors will know best which one will work for you. A careful assessment of your health condition will be required to avoid possible side effects. *If you have more than one doctor providing care for you and prescribing medication – be sure they all have a release to be able to speak to one another and make certain every one of them have a complete and accurate list of all your medications.

Providing social support is also necessary for people who are suffering from heart disease and depression. According to several studies in the past, patients should create an effort to re-engage with their social network. In the same way, friends and family should never make the patient feel isolated because of the condition. Providing support will be effective in the prevention of depressive symptoms.

Taking medications is more commonly complemented with psychological treatments. This is important not only for the purpose of treating the current condition, but also to make sure that the signs of depression will not continue to burden you in the future. Through mindfulness cognitive behavior therapy (M-CBT) and interpersonal therapy, a seasoned and experienced professional therapist or counselor will help you to change your perspective in life, and hence, providing you with a more optimistic attitude to fight depression.

10 Common Symptoms Of Depression

Every year approximately 10 per cent of the American population suffers from depression. Depression is a grave illness that affects day to day life and destroys families. It is a disorder that controls the mind and its functions causing loss of appetite, sleeplessness, mood swings, and a deep sense of despair.

The symptoms of depression are varied and the severity changes with time. And, according to experts depression can be an inherited disorder, or caused by life threatening illnesses, or stress. Other causes are certain diseases, medicines, drugs, alcohol, chronic exposure to high stress environments or mental illnesses. Women have been seen to experience depression more than men and this is attributed to hormonal swings, menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriage, pre-menopause, and post-menopause. But male depression in the U.S. is on the rise for a variety reasons.

Common symptoms are:

1. An unshakable sadness, anxiety, or emptiness.

2. Overwhelming hopelessness accompanied by pessimistic feelings.

3. Extreme guilt, feelings of helplessness, and no sense of self worth.

4. Loss of energy, a slowing down of metabolism, and activity levels. Being plagued by constant fatigue.

5. A sense of helplessness along with an increasing inability to focus and indecisiveness.

6. Loss of sound sleep and development of extreme insomnia.

7. Inexplicable weight loss or weight gain. Triggered by loss of appetite or eating binges.

8. Brooding and suicidal inclinations.

9. Irritability, short temper, as well as restlessness.

10. Physical afflictions like headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain for no particular reason.


If you experience any of the above along with a marked change in behavior do consult your doctor. They will give you a thorough examination to rule out physical causes for depression as well as any underlying medical problems. Then if needed they will recommend you for counseling or other supportive services.

Here are some quick tips for dealing with Mild to Moderate Depression:

Take matters in hand and try and erase negativity from your mind. Cut out from you life terms like exhaustion, worthlessness, and hopelessness. Change your life by setting yourself a few goals. Try and relax, meditate, and enjoy music. Start new activities that absorb your time as well as interests. Go out and meet people and participate in group activities. Avoid the company of negative people – this is huge, but isolation is not the answer. You have to add positive, communal experiences. Make up your mind to enjoy a movie, ballgame, family outing, picnic, or trek. Be positive, self confident, and have faith in yourself. Faith is itself can be a great healer. Decide to change your world for the better. However do follow the doctor’s advice. Treatment options can include: anti-depressant medicines, psychotherapy, as well as lifestyle changes.

For Severe Depression

If your depression escalates, seek help from your family physician or health care provider. If you are suicidal, call the emergency response, suicide hotline or go to your nearest emergency room. Do call a local health department, a community mental health center, or hospital or clinic. Someone will extend a helping hand and talk you through the crisis.

More Information on Heart Disease and Depression

Cardiac events, surgery, heart disease and depression. These are all familiar, often feared and typically held as foreign to us personally. But for many of us or those we love – these can become all too real very quickly.

When someone experiences a heart-attack, heart surgery or stroke, the immediate concerns obviously are physical health and management of the immediate situation. But when they survive and move on with their day to day activities, it is important to manage their mental health as well.
According to several studies done by researchers, it has been clear that about 40% of the patients with heart diseases and cardiac events suffer from depression. Depression has become very common after a heart attack. About 20% of post cardiac patients who suffer from depression have the severe form of it, while the others have it mildly. The good news is that this can be treated, but, this has been temporary most of the time. Long term survivors of cardiac events fall into depression in the rate of one out of three every year.


Also the researchers have shown that physical inactivity has become an independent risk factor for increased depressive symptoms after a cardiac event. Of course, it is understandable that getting diagnosed with a heart disease is really sad. But the process of this sadness and how the person copes with it is also important. Some accept the health status of their own selves, and focus on rehabilitation and regaining the health which he has lost or to recover as much as possible. But some find it hard to accept and the early sadness converts to depression over time.

One of the main things a person should be concerned about is that if the patient mood or outlook has changed significantly or they are not enjoying life as they did before. Do not dismiss apathy and malaise  – these are concerns and should be discussed with a professional. Below are the main symptoms which will hint that the patient has not recovered from the psychological effects which he had suffered due to this health state. If you are having a loved one or you yourself are suffering from such a situation, it is best to go to a doctor. Counseling can help you come out of the depressive state you are in.

Depressive state after a cardiac event is not a normal thing and sometimes, your cardiologist may not understand that you have depression. To understand and to save yourself or your loved one from this state, you will have to observe them carefully.

A person with depression will likely have five or more of the following symptoms;

• Frequent feelings of sadness or emptiness

• Loss of interest in pleasurable activities

• Strange eating or sleeping patterns

• Excessive crying

• Thoughts of suicide and death

• Fatigue

• Difficulty concentrating or remembering

• Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness

• Irritability

• Unexplained aches and pains that don’t respond to treatment

Depression is not the only matter, after a cardiac surgery. Some people also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) or anxiety. Even though the relationship between heart and mind are not understood, it is evident that a major surgery in the heart can cause some chemical changes in the brain. Doctors say that it is good to talk to a patient who has undergone a heart surgery, before you do your surgery. Also, they recommend that, a post cardiac surgery patient should do counseling after the major surgery.

Without treatment, depression can be fatal. For heart patients, depression can cause increased risk of heart attacks and coronary artery diseases. That is why you need to be careful about your psychological status, in order to have a full recovery and an effective rehabilitation.
If you feel like having depression and that something is disturbing your day-to-day work and social relationships, then it is necessary to get treated by a mental health specialist.

If you want to be more specific, here are some reasons to seek help;

• If you have low mood and lack of happiness daily, for about two weeks.

• If you find it very difficult to recover from your heart disease and if you feel a lack of motivation and confidence. This is a symptom of depression being settled in your brain.

• If you have difficulties carrying out your daily work, such as marketing, having good neighborhood, having a good relationship with family and etc.

• Low social activeness can also suspect that the patient is finding it hard to move with others and is also one of the symptoms of depression.

• If a person has suicidal thoughts and feelings.


Suicide is not a solution for any problem and it can harm not only the person who tries to commit suicide, but the loved ones as well. If you have any suicidal thoughts, call your physician or 24 hour suicide hotline right away.

The symptoms and a proper history can help a doctor predict or diagnose the prognosis of a patient. How long the psychological affects last and how often it occurs help us understand whether the patient is processing this health state in a natural way or whether he is slipping into depression. Diagnosing this status wholly depend on the patients attitude and behavior and not by the lab reports and others.

There are many treatment methods for depression; medications, psychotherapy or a combination of both can be used. Among medications new antidepressants such as Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI) are safe to be used for cardiac patients.

Psychotherapy can help a person to regain the normal thoughts and activities. It helps to provide social support and help the patient develop positive thinking. Supportive models of talk therapy appear to be the most effective in treating post cardiac surgery depression. Talking about the surgery and the experience the patient had can remove the fear, depression and sadness they have had after surgery.

Furthermore, a healthy lifestyle, regular exercises, proper sleep and a healthy diet together with a relaxation technique which will help to remove the stress after the surgery will help the patient manage psychological negativity which comes after surgery.

Early diagnosis and treatment of post cardiac surgery depression is important to gain effective rehabilitation and to prevent recurrent heart attacks. If left untreated, it increases the risk of mortality, depression and heart attacks.

As always a proper support system and a helpful background are important in helping a depressed person come out of the situation.

If you are family or a loved one of a patient who has undergone a cardiac surgery, here are some tips and suggestions;

• Encourage the patient to seek medical help and follow the therapy as asked. Make sure that he is consulted by a proper medical professional so that the diagnosis can be made as soon as possible and treated effectively.

• Educate yourself and family about post cardiac surgery depression. This will help you and your family to understand the patient’s situation. There are many support groups and organization which will provide you with enough information.

• You should know that depression is not a person’s attitude, weakness or quality and that it is a disorder with biological, psychological and interpersonal components.

• Help your family member follow the prescribed treatment plan and practice the coping techniques and problem-solving skills he or she is learning during psychotherapy. Following the doctor’s instructions will help him recover soon.

• Make sure medications are available if prescribed, attend therapy sessions together with a family member if the patient feels that it is needed, encourage the patient to follow recommended lifestyle changes and follow up with the proper health care providers.

• Recognize that depression is often expressed as hostility, rejection and irritability. Offer consistent support to your loved one. This can be daring, but it is one of the most important parts of a treatment plan. People with depression can feel alone and isolated. Giving consistent support and understanding are critical. Making them feel that you are with him, helps a lot more than you think.

• Adopt an interaction style that puts the depressed person in charge. For example, instead of suggesting, “Let’s go to the movies tonight,” try this: “I’d like to see a movie tonight. Which one of these do you want to see with me?” When he is in charge, he feels that he can manage things and this will help the negativity vanish away. (Remember that treatment is effective and your loved one will start to improve in 2 to 3 weeks, achieving full improvement in a couple of months. Notice and praise any significant improvement.)

• Reward your family member with opportunities such as visiting friends or going out for activities. Don’t force these, though. Suggestions and requested would be the best option.

• Take breaks from the depressed person from time to time. It will help both of you. A break will help you regain your active mind as well as the patient will feel that he is not forced.

• Consider family or marital therapy: these forms of therapy bring together all those affected by depression and help them learn effective ways to cope together.

• Consider support of community support groups, either for the depressed person, or for you as the family member, or better yet for both of you.

Outpatient Professional Counseling For Heart Disease and Depression

If you are looking for the best way to deal with heart disease and depression in Houston, Texas, I can extend a helping hand through private, outpatient professional counseling. With my extensive experience and knowledge in working specifically with the emotional challenges that often complicate serious medical issues, I provide services that preserve the dignity and privacy of my clients and that are customized to their specific needs. Compared to other local treatment options, outpatient counseling delivers a wide array of benefits, such as giving you the freedom to do the things you normally do while undergoing treatment. My professional services will help you and your loved ones live a normal, healthier, and happier life even if you have heart disease and are showing signs of depression.

Call Now (346)-493-6181


Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.

Cancer Resilience

Counseling for Cancer Patients and their Loved Ones

Counseling for Cancer Patients and their Loved Ones

A patient who is first diagnosed with cancer is usually overwhelmed and frightened. Feelings of sadness, confusion, worry, and anger are completely natural. The patient’s psychological and social well-being are impacted, and a patient’s relationship with family and friends can be affected by this as well. The physical/medical hurdles, adjusting relationships and changes in personal philosophy may lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and it is really important to find ways to address these feelings. Counseling for cancer patients and their loved ones can be a great help during this time.

Counseling can help the patient to better cope with the side effects and the pain that evolves from treatment. It may also help the patient and his family better deal with and express these common feelings, as well as provide a safe place to discuss their concerns.
Most cancer patients have to grieve the loss of their previous lifestyle, learn to accept their new reality, and make the most of their new situation. Many will experience an evolution of their view on life and likely re-assess their priorities. The process of living with cancer is life-changing; for the patient and for those who love them. Facing cancer is an experience that often leads the patient to re-examine his core values and passions and can motivate them to pursue new goals of great personal importance.

Here are some of the ways counseling can help the person facing cancer and their loved ones too:

For Newly Diagnosed
1. A safe place to deal with the emotional impact, worry, and fear
2. Working on addressing feelings of depression, guilt and self-doubt
3. Openly discussing the effects and the impact of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy
4. Developing skills to assist with the side effects of treatment                                                         5. Strategies to manage the stress and pain

For Loved Ones / Caregivers
1. Dealing with feelings of lack of control, anxiety and stress
2. Addressing new obligations and loss of previous lifestyle
3. Helping to gain a new perspective and deal with the new challenges in a healthy manner

For Beyond Treatment
1. Going through the process of grieving the loss of the old self and accepting the new self
2. Living with the uncertainty of long term survival
3. Adapting to the physical changes and limitations
4. Addressing challenges related to intimacy, reproduction, and employment
5. Addressing feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and mood fluctuations


Challenges and struggles in response to chemo and radiation therapy

Cancer is not a disease which will only affect a person physically. It is also something which will affect a person emotionally and psychologically. This has always been the hardest to handle and that’s why counseling for cancer patients and their loved ones is recommended for many oncology patients by their physicians.

Getting to know that a person has cancer is a really hard thing for the patient as well as for the loved onew. Even though people are happy to get treated and healed. There are many times the treatment itself have greatly affected the patients, psychologically. It is hard to say whether it is the side effect of medications alone or a phase of psychological acceptance of the disease. Anyhow, what has become clear is that counseling for a patient should be carried out throughout the whole time of treatment and sometimes even after a full recovery. This might help a patient develop confidence, self esteem and resilience. Whether you admit it or not, all cancer patients are fighters… GREAT fighters. Their confidence goes down only because, at times, they don’t accept it.

Many psychiatrists believe that the transitional period after an intensive cancer treatment is the most likely period to cause psychological distress. For some patients this period may be as stressful, or even moreso, as it was to initially undergo the treatment itself.

Further, the people around the patient might expect the patient to be ‘completely normal’ after the successful treatment and may not appreciate what the patient has already gone through…and is still going through. But, many people do not understand that the cancer patients become more sensitive, anxious and uncertain about things around him. It is very easy to understand. A person who has lived for months in the sorrow, fear and uncertainty of leaving the loved once and all the other things takes some time to get back to who he was. Even though a doctor may confirm their full recovery many patients stay uncertain for a while.

How a cancer patient is affected psychologically depends on many factors. Some of these are:
Overall temperament in normal
Coping skills
Social supports
Type of cancer
Family/ friends support
Memory and thinking after chemotherapy



Chemotherapy has many side effects. It does not only kill cancer cells, but it also affects many other normal cells in the body. Among these are the brain cells. About 20% – 60% of cancer patients who undergo standard doses of chemotherapy, experience some degree of cognitive dysfunction and memory problems.

The affected brain is casually often called ‘chemo brain’. The main cause of the chemobrain is presumed to be the neurotoxic effects of chemotherapy. The chemobrain causes diffused mental cloudiness and may affect a person’s cognition, social and occupational behaviors, sense of his own self and the quality of life. Moreover, it affects concentration, memory, comprehension and reasoning as well. And the common byproduct of these is our favorite “S” word; stress.

The studies have shown that many people undergoing this type of cancer treatment have problems with short term memory and difficulty recalling words. Some patients are not acknowledged about these changes and are alarmed at the presence of it and misunderstanding it as a spread or worsening of the disease. But, when people know what they are going through, even when scary, painful or difficult they often experience a much lower stress level and consequently are able to prepare and face these symptoms quite bravely.

The effects of chemobrain may exist during chemotherapy and even afterwards up to 10 years, in some cases. These changes may be subtle in most patients, while for some it can be more profound. At the moment there are no specific treatments and preventive measures known, but, if the patients have problems with thinking or memory, which interferes with the daily work, he/she may seek help from a doctor.

There are different memory training exercises and programs and also many other treatments which will improve the brain function such as problem solving abilities and logical thinking. Finding a counselor and being familiar with this situation is a brave step for the patient as well as the loved ones.

As all the other drugs, chemotherapy has its side effects too. But every person does not face the same experience during chemotherapy. Some have really less amount of side effects while the others find it very hard to face the treatment.


Other psychological issues after chemotherapy and radiotherapy

People, who suffer from cancer for a long time, deal with a lot of stress. Moreover, they face problems with sleep, concentration and appetite together with physical symptoms such as palpitations, due to the intensive treatment which they go through. Some oncologists also mention that they find patients fearful and hyper-vigilant.

According to many recent studies, one third of cancer survivors have suffered from symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, which are;

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the event(cancer treatment)
Reliving the event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
Upsetting dreams about the having cancer and getting treated
Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
Negative feelings about yourself or other people
Inability to experience positive emotions
Feeling emotionally numb
Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Hopelessness about the future
Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the event
Difficulty maintaining close relationships


Counseling Support For Cancer Patients And Their Loved Ones Is Needed

This shows us the huge need of counseling and psychological support for cancer patients together with the cancer treatment. (And caregivers and loved ones also need support during this time.) Even though being alive is something to be happy about, there are some patients who feel guilty about it. This happens mainly if they have a friend or family member who has died with a cancer. As we know some patients join support groups where there are many cancer patients. Here these patients make very close friendship with each other most of the time. Yes, this is a great support to face cancer than fighting it alone. But, with the time, when members pass away the other patients might experience loss, grief and then guilt of being alive. Support and counseling for cancer patients and their loved ones can make a big difference here as well.

Cancer Resilience is one of my areas of specialty and is a personal passion. I am a nationally board certified and licensed professional counselor who is dedicated to my clients. My approach is based on several counseling styles and I tailor them to each patient according to their unique situation. If you are facing this journey, or love someone who is, please call. I’d like to help.

Ben Carrettin is Nationally Board Certified and Licensed Professional Counselor who has worked in the field for many years. His areas of specialty include counseling cancer, cardiac and serious medical patients and their families, as well as other select areas. Ben is also a Lay Chaplain with advanced training in pastoral care and is personally passionate about his work and his commitment to his clients.

Call Now (346)-493-6181


Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.

Cancer & Medical

Counseling Medical Patients

Counseling Medical Patients

Are Medical Treatments Or Procedures Causing You To Feel Down, Depressed, Angry Or Anxious? Are you struggling to feel healthy and whole while in the midst of cancer treatments or following a surgery? Are you beginning to wonder if you may be suffering from some form of medical trauma? Perhaps you recently had heart surgery and are suddenly experiencing depression. Or maybe a succession of cancer treatments or a recent kidney or liver transplant surgery has you questioning if you can live a normal, healthy life. Have chemotherapy treatments worn you down, making it difficult to cultivate energy, hope and joy? Are you tired of feeling like a victim, stuck in suffering? Do you wish you could let go of negative thoughts and feel positive and focused on a healthy and effective recovery? Counseling medical patients can provide the help you need to move back from merely surviving each day to really living your life fully.

Medical trauma can affect anyone experiencing a life-changing medical issue or who has undergone invasive surgery. Prolonged physically and mentally intensive treatments and post-operation recovery can feel overwhelming and sometimes frightening. And, when the physical body is in distress, it’s not uncommon to neglect the needs of the emotional body and the mind. Depression, anxiety and cumulative stress can take hold and erode at emotional and mental well-being. You may want to find your way back to emotional strength, but feel too tired, stressed or confused to. You may also wonder if you will ever be able to lead a normal, healthy life and worry about how your medical condition is affecting the people you love.

Counseling for cancer and medical patients

What Is Medical Trauma?

Medical trauma can be caused by medical events, such as cancer treatments, organ transplant procedures or heart surgeries that create heightened stress or fear. While in the midst of cancer treatments and following invasive surgeries, many patients experience trauma symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, mistrust and relationship issues. Transplant donors and recipients can experience major anxiety and depression that can inhibit the patients from following their doctor’s medical advice. Even family members and spouses of patients undergoing cancer treatments and surgeries can experience changes in behavior and mental well-being.

If you’re suffering from medical trauma, you are not alone. Forty percent of all heart surgery patients suffer from some form of depression within six months following their operation, and up to 25 percent of patients diagnosed with cancer experience clinical depression. In families of patients, 20-30 percent of spouses of cancer patients experience some form of psychological distress and behavioral change.

Medical trauma can affect anyone who has undergone, is about to undergo or is currently receiving medical treatment. The anticipation of a diagnosis or the inevitable decline of a loved one’s health can elicit racing, anxious thoughts and cause patients and their families to feel helpless or even hopeless. While symptoms can sometimes be obvious, at other times, trauma goes unnoticed due to prevailing concerns, such as taking care of the family, maintaining a job or trying to heal yourself. Dealing with those external factors can create more stress and even slow the healing process.

Whether you are apprehensive about an upcoming diagnosis, fearful for a loved one’s future or are dealing with the effects of invasive surgery, there is hope and help. An experienced and compassionate therapist can help improve your sense of well-being and manage traumatic stress.

Counseling for cancer and medical patients

Counseling For Cancer Patients And Medical Trauma Can Help You Process Trauma And Experience Relief

Impermanence is frequently at the core of the fears and anxieties we experience when dealing with medical issues. The loss of mobility, energy and ability to participate in everyday activities can create symptoms of anxiety and depression and further complicate an already complicated situation. The idea of the impermanence and the possible decline of health or death can rattle even the boldest and most spiritual of people. The good news is that even in the midst of a difficult situation, it is possible to work through challenging thoughts and feelings, cultivate a positive perspective and feel more at peace.

In safe, confidential sessions, we can work through your medical trauma by addressing fears around impermanence, attachment, loss and grief. Using a combination of Western medicine practices and Eastern philosophies, I will create a mindfulness-based approach and help you cultivate courage, strength and happiness in the midst of the uncertainty you face. I can help you manage this sensitive and vulnerable time by approaching your unique situation with compassion and openness. It is my privilege to work with people at a most sensitive and vulnerable time, and I always endeavor to preserve dignity and honor trust.

While many people undergo similar diseases, symptoms and procedures, the experience is never the same from one person to another. I understand that each of my clients is unique, which is why I will tailor-create a therapy strategy that best addresses and supports your specific medical condition, needs, history, personality and therapy goals. In medical trauma therapy sessions, I can help you identify and re-frame negative thinking patterns, learn relaxation techniques and find grounding and perspective in the present moment. By re-contextualizing your pain and suffering I can help you find joy and peace within the moment.

For over 23 years, I have been counseling medical patients; providing guidance and support to people experiencing medical trauma and their loved ones. I understand the challenges that can come with invasive medical procedures and the mental and emotional toll they can take. But, I also know that there is always help and hope for healing. With support, guidance and an approach tailored to meet your specific needs, you can work through feelings of uncertainty and cultivate happiness, confidence and a sense of peace.
Although you may understand the benefits of counseling for cancer patients and medical trauma, you still may have questions and concerns about the process…

I’m too tired and taxed to add anything—even therapy—to my schedule.

Constant visits to doctors and treatment centers can be emotionally overwhelming and physically difficult to manage. It’s understandable that you may not want to visit yet another office, especially if you’ve been poked and prodded and fear exposing yourself even more. That said, counseling for cancer patients and medical trauma can help you process trauma and work through challenging thoughts and feelings. We will work at a pace that feels comfortable for you, which can keep you from feeling overwhelmed in sessions. Also, often when clients let go of heavy thoughts and feelings, they often experience increased energy and a more positive perspective on their recovery process.

Counseling for cancer and medical patients

I’m not mentally ill. Why do I need therapy?

We like to think that we can tackle the world by ourselves. The reality is, however, that humans are meant to live and heal in community, and we can all benefit from help. Seeking help is a sign of strength, and I find my clients are ordinary people trying to navigate extraordinary circumstances. Furthermore, a healthy mental outlook is a critical part of the healing process. Elevated stress and apathetic feelings can interfere with your ability and desire to follow your doctor’s orders and can even affect your body’s response to surgery or medical treatments. An experienced therapist can help you manage your mental health, process trauma and feel more empowered in your recovery.

My loved one is suffering medical trauma, and I’m struggling to cope. Can this kind of therapy help me, too?

Those who are supporting another through a medical crisis are often the ones who benefit from counseling the most. It’s not uncommon for spouses, family members and friends of those suffering from medical trauma to feel afraid, frustrated and overwhelmed. If you are struggling to understand or process your loved one’s medical situation, trauma therapy can provide you with guidance and support. In sessions, you can focus on your personal experience and work through challenging thoughts and emotions. When you feel mentally and emotionally balanced, you’re best able to care for yourself and provide care for the people you love.

You Can Live With Greater Ease And More Joy

You don’t have to navigate this challenging time on your own. I invite you to contact me at (713) 489-3329 for a free 15-minute consultation. I’m happy to discuss your specific needs and answer any questions you have about counseling for cancer patients and medical trauma and my practice.

Counseling for cancer and medical patients

Call Now (346)-493-6181

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.