Counselling and Emotional Support Services

The Focus is on CARE

C – Counselling that focusses on Compassion, Communication, and Caring

A – Patient Advocacy. Help asking the right questions and getting the information to make informed choices

R – Help to find and navigate Resources

EEducation for patients, doctors and families

Peggy Mahoney offers supportive counselling for individuals and families dealing with:

  • Critical Illness
  • Chronic Illness
  • Acute and Chronic Pain Management
  • Preparation for Surgery and Support Through Treatment
  • Support for Cancer Patients
  • Support During Medication Withdrawal
  • Supportive Counselling for Those Facing Death

Services can be delivered in person (in the Victoria area) and/or on line. Peggy provides services on line because many people dealing with illness find it difficult to travel to appointments. In addition, talking for periods of time can be exhausting.

Services can be provided on line through Skype or other video conferencing services. In addition, this allows counselling to be provided at a reduced rate and at shorter increments of time than the traditional hour long session.

The flexibility of on-line services also allows Peggy to offer services across Canada to regions that may lack this specialized form of support and counselling.

About Peggy Mahoney

Peggy Mahoney has been a chartered psychologist (Alberta) and Counsellor since 1983. She is currently a certified member of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. She is grounded by her work with people dealing with illness, trauma, and those experiencing acute and chronic suffering. She has worked with her client’s darkest moments and can help provide clarity or just be there to witness the pain.

When diagnosed with a critical illness, many people feel alone and confused. Friends and family may be supportive, but not know how to connect at a deeper level because of their own feelings of shock and denial. In addition, many seniors may live apart from family and feel isolated and alone. Supportive counselling through this process can help provide clarity, break through the feeling of isolation and provide assistance in making very difficult choices.

What makes Peggy unique is that she knows the medical system, and the complexity of issues confronting individuals and families facing critical and chronic illness. She is compassionate and practical in her approach. She has a large tool box to help patients manage the stress and pain of the journey of critical illness. She has also training and experience in working with the dying and supporting individuals and their families through the final year of life.

Coping With Illness

Supportive Counselling can help you and your family through the many issues and cycles of illness. These issues include:

  • Assisting with information and clarifying questions to help guide decision making
  • Preparing your environment for changing needs
  • Assisting with access to financial and other resources
  • Navigating changing roles and relationships
  • Clarifying values and goals
  • Assisting with communicating difficult information to family and friends
  • Symptom and pain management
  • Assisting with the spiritual challenges that accompany illness

Critical Illness

Every year individuals are told that they have a serious, life threatening illness. Cancer, heart disease, liver disease, are just a few of the categories of such illnesses. Coping with the shock and immediate life changes can be difficult and emotional. Patients often are ‘like a deer in the headlights’ and are not able to navigate the many decisions facing them concerning employment, financial issues, treatment alternatives and changing relationships.

When diagnosed with a critical illness, many patients feel so let down by their body that they are afraid to find out information, ask key questions and participate in decisions that will effect them. There may be feelings of helplessness and overwhelm at a time when key decisions will be made regarding treatment and outcomes. Supportive counselling can help to clarify; key questions regarding prognosis, treatment and outcomes, planning for the worse and best scenarios, preparing for doctor visits and setting goals, and, communicating critical information to family and friends.

At times of critical illness, many friends and family members may pull away, unable to cope with the profound changes in the relationship with the sick individual. This can leave the patient may feel isolated and at times let down by those around them. Reassurance and help navigating relationships and is a primary focus of supportive counselling.

Chronic Illness

Millions of people in Canada suffer from a chronic illness. The BC Medical Officer estimated that as many as 1 in 4 Canadians suffer from a significant chronic illness! In addition, side effects of treatment for a serious acute illness result in a chronic condition for many individuals. Regardless of the type of illness, patients and families cycle through various stages of adjustment as they try to cope to the realities of the impact of chronic illness.

Coping with new limitations, strained relationships, employment and financial issues and dealing with the condition itself create a storm of stressors for the patient and their family. There is also significant loss of self confidence, self worth and identity. Depression and helplessness are common for individuals that are used to being active, independent or the supportive one in their relationships.

Supportive counselling can help to deal with these stressors and deal with the psychological impact of new limitations and abilities. Supportive counselling can also help to navigate changing relationships.

Acute and Chronic Pain Management

It is important to distinguish between acute and chronic pain cycles. Acute pain can be very severe, but it is usually temporary. Once the injury or illness is resolved, the pain disappears. However, if strong narcotic medication has been used for over 2 months to control pain, physical withdrawal symptoms may occur.

Chronic pain is often characterised as pain that extends beyond 3 months. Pain can be continuous, cyclical, and vary in intensity with other stressors in your life. Often stress and anxiety heightens pain while feelings of confidence and security reduce pain.

Emotional changes for those experiencing pain include anxiety, sensitivity, grumpiness, unstable mood, exhaustion and extreme frustration. Sleep can be greatly affected by pain and lead to long term sleep issues. In addition, there can be a trauma component to the experience of extreme pain and hospital treatment that can complicate the resolution of the pain cycle.

Supportive counselling can help to deal with acute and chronic pain. Use of self awareness techniques along with relaxation and mental imaging can help reduce pain. Counselling can also deal with the resolution of traumatic events associated with the pain. Relationships can become strained for those dealing with acute and chronic pain. Supportive counselling can help increase self awareness and reduce relationship stress.

Counselling can also help during the transition off of strong narcotic pain medications (see below).

Preparation for Surgery and Support During Recovery

If surgery has been suggested as the best medical treatment for your current situation, it is natural to feel afraid and anxious. These feelings are enhanced if you have issues around being conscious and in control.

It is important to discuss your questions and concerns with your surgeon and health care team. Having confidence in the decision to have surgery is the first step to dealing with the arising fears and anxiety.

Supportive counselling can also help to prepare you for surgery and optimize your healing capacity. Benefits of psychological preparation for surgery include; reduced stress and anxiety, reduce pain through pain management techniques, and shorter recovery due to psychological preparation and empowerment to take more responsibility for outcome.

Support for Cancer Patients

The diagnoses of cancer can be a huge impact on any individual and family. If you are dealing with the diagnosis of cancer, you may feel shock, confusion, anxiety, depression and many other emotions! These emotions can greatly impact your ability to navigate through the medical system, ask important questions and manage treatment options, at a time when there is pressure to make urgent decisions.

In addition, there can be feelings of self blame and anger which can strain relationships. Your loved ones may be cycling through their own emotions of shock, fear, and confusion making them less available for the kind of support you need.

Supportive counselling can be helpful to manage emotions and assist you and your family to deal with complex systems of care and resources. Counselling can also help break through feelings of isolation, prepare you for treatment, assist you to have difficult conversations with friends and family, provide coping skills, manage pain, and improve your outlook towards treatment and recovery.

Help With Medication Withdrawal

During the treatment phase of acute illness, strong narcotics, corticosteroids and other medications are often prescribed that can have strong physical and psychological effects during and following treatment.

If used for short durations (under a month), there are often few withdrawal symptoms. However, for durations over 2 to 3 months, you may experience physiological and psychological withdrawal symptoms that can vary in severity and duration. Sometimes the experience of withdrawal pain and sensation of illness can feel as bad as the pain that you were taking the medication to manage!

Understanding withdrawal symptoms, finding coping strategies, support and having compassionate witness can help during the period of withdrawal. If the schedule of withdrawal is too fast, counselling can assist with negotiating tapering strategies with medical professionals. In addition, supportive counselling can help to reduce the relationship stress that often accompanies periods of medication withdrawal.

Supportive Counselling for Those Facing Death

Facing critical and chronic illness is often a harsh wake up to our own mortality. The reality that not everyone recovers from critical illnesses such as cancer, and many degenerative chronic illnesses, is something that most people are not willing to admit let alone discuss with sick individuals. Even doctors often skirt the reality that their patient is dying and will not provide this information even when asked directly!

There is a double standard in our ‘death phobic’ society. You may feel like facing your death means giving up hope or giving in to your illness. The use of terms like ‘fighting cancer’, ‘battling illness’, succumbing to cancer’, are pervasive in our society and death can feel like loosing. At the same time, denial can lead to feelings of confusion, terror and result in a lack of preparation that can greatly impact you and the people around you.

Supportive counselling can also help empower you to get answers, even harsh ones, and make decisions about the end of life. This does not mean giving up on life. Quite the contrary. During the last year of life, you may take opportunities to cherish moments, decide to enhance the most important aspects of your life and experience life as fully as possible.

Many family members and friends do not know how to deal with this final phase of life. Discussing your thoughts and emotions about death can feel burdensome to those around you who are also dealing with the loss of someone they love dearly. A counsellor who has experience with the dying can help to sift through difficult emotions, listen to your darkest thoughts, help with advanced care directives and witness your journey. Supportive counselling can help you reach out to others during this time and navigate important relationships.