Relate worked with Prostate Cancer UK to identify ways in which counselling could support men and their partners to deal with relationship, or similar, issues in a project funded by The Movember Foundation.
The big idea
Prostate cancer has an emotional impact on men diagnosed and living with it, as well as on their partners, family members and friends. In a 2006 survey of people with a cancer diagnosis, 26 per cent of respondents said cancer had affected their relationships and 25 per cent of that number said that their relationship had broken down as a result. 32 per cent of respondents said that their relationships were put under 'enormous strain' and 43 per cent said that their sex life suffered. The report also found that 42 per cent of men diagnosed with cancer suffer some form of depression as a result. Living with prostate cancer and the side effects of treatments can change the way men think about themselves, their lives and their plans. These changes can be devastating and can cause some men to feel as if part of who they are has been lost or changed.
We know that treatments for prostate cancer can have a serious negative impact on relationships and mental wellbeing. That's why we wanted to jointly develop a service for men with prostate cancer in Greater Manchester with Relate.
When I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, it didn’t sink in and I found it hard to accept what was happening. I ‘clammed’ up and didn’t want to talk about it to anyone. I became depressed and worried about the future. It caused lots of problems at home with my wife and family members, because I didn’t want to talk about it. I was very short tempered – ‘there was no talking to me!!’ and that’s not like me.
Making it happen
Relate counselling services are appropriate for any family member when life events have a negative impact on relationships. Prostate Cancer UK trained Relate counsellors to deliver prostate cancer specific support and counselling. Relate offered men and their loved ones up to 10 sessions of psychosexual therapy or relationship counselling at their local branch. Men could either be referred to the service by a health professional or self-refer via an easy and accessible referral mechanism. Counsellors used the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale to measure improvement and changes in clients using the counselling service. The client answers a set of 14 questions at their first session, and the same 14 at their final session. Statements are then given a score of 1-4 with 4 being a high indicator for either anxiety or depression.
Finding out what works
This service had a significant impact for men and their loved ones:
- 73 per cent reported a reduction in anxiety
- 73 per cent reported a reduction in their depression
- 73 per cent reported improved acceptance of their situation
- 73 per cent reported improved ability to manage expectations
- 80 per cent reported improvements in their relationships after the sessions
- 57 per cent reported improved satisfaction with their sexual function.
Following the success of this partnership in Greater Manchester, Prostate Cancer UK funded a further 16 Relate services across England, Wales and Northern Ireland with support from The Movember Foundation. We also developed an online Livechat service with Relate, offering 1:1 support via a web link. The service has delivered over 1,600 counselling sessions to those affected by a prostate cancer diagnosis and has provided Relate with a model for supporting men around cancer in the future.
I now understand more about myself and how I am in a relationship. I feel more in control of my sexual difficulties and can prioritise what I want in a relationship moving forward.
After the first session I felt more relaxed. and when I went home I went through everything with my wife and later, after further sessions, the family. It made a real difference. I’m still worried, but not as much, I realised I had lots of support around me. I would recommend anyone in my situation to seek some counselling, it helped me and my family.