As oncologists, we provide psychotherapy whether we know it or not. By definition, psychotherapy is the modification of behaviors, cognitions, and emotions in one person assisted by another, based on a particular theory, with the requirement that the therapist has prior training.Therefore, our objective is to provide the busy clinical oncologist with an understanding of basic psychotherapeutic principles, tools, and strategies to support and enhance our therapeutic arsenal for patient and family interactions in oncology.

In fact, many of these strategies are already incorporated into oncologists’ clinical care by focusing on the patient’s needs. Yet, understanding how these strategies function and when to apply and consider their utility will enhance our ability to align the oncologist-patient goals. This creates a meaningful doctor-patient interaction. Ultimately, forging an enhanced understanding of the oncologist-patient interpersonal dynamics and navigating patients’ emotional turmoil will be beneficial during an oncologic crisis. It also benefits oncologists who routinely manage these emotionally devastating situations.

Despite limited training, oncologists can be sensitive to the parallel psychotherapeutic process that patients experience while undergoing treatment. We sustain our patients by developing rapport, acknowledging patients’ role and effort, and aligning ourselves with their goals to allay fears. Our therapeutic relationship facilitates a natural sense of support through connection to threads of humanness that gives patients the power to persevere.