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HomeSupport for FamiliesFamily HubThe Counselling Project

The Counselling Project

A world-first in psychological support

A childhood cancer diagnosis can be considered traumatic and can bring a range of emotions ranging from shock and disbelief, to worry and fear, through to sadness and anger. However, we know that with good psychosocial support, offered at the right time, many children and families will get through their experience.

This is where the Counselling Project comes in. Led by two psychologists from Massey University, in partnership with Child Cancer Foundation and the National Child Cancer Network, the project aims to train existing counsellors across Aotearoa in the effects of childhood cancer on children, siblings, parents and wider whānau.

This will increase the ability for families to access counselling support in their hometown once children have left their treatment providers (either Starship or CHOC) and throughout the ongoing challenges of childhood cancer. Child Cancer Foundation is funding the project as well as covering the cost of counselling sessions for parents and families.

We are currently recruiting counsellors from across Aotearoa, and training will be launching in the near future. We are very proud to be working towards having a network of well-trained, experienced counsellors who will be able to provide support for children and families across Aotearoa – something we believe to be a world-first.

What is counselling?

Seeing a counsellor simply involves sitting down and talking to someone about how you are doing. The counsellor will ask some questions so they can get to know you as a person, e.g., what you are dealing with right now, who your support people are and your values, beliefs and cultural needs. Then, they will work with you to identify some things you might like some help with and work alongside you to develop some ideas to support your wellbeing.

Sometimes, just having a space to vent outside of the family is all people need and that is fine too! Having a space to discuss and work through some of your emotions can help reduce how big those emotions feel and can help make them feel more manageable.

Asking to see a counsellor (or having this offered to you) does not mean you are going crazy or that people think you aren’t coping. It just means that people know that cancer is an incredibly difficult thing to deal with and that you don’t have to manage on your own. There are trained professionals to support your wellbeing and that of your children and whānau.

Counselling can be helpful for:

  • Helping people understand their emotional reactions and responses, and providing space to talk about these.
  • Normalising these emotional responses.
  • Helping people look after themselves during stressful times with good self-care.
  • Improving communication between family members as well as between families and health professionals.
  • Managing particular challenges like medical procedures.
  • Having someone outside your family to offload to and think through problems with. This can help provide space to develop solutions that work within someone’s life, values and circumstances.

By Dr Kirsty Ross

*Dr Kirsty Ross is a senior clinical psychologist and lead on the Counselling Project. She has worked with children, youth and families for almost 20 years and has worked in paediatric oncology for the past 15 years through the Massey University Cancer Psychology Service.