Cancer Treatment Centers of America

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Spiritual Support

spiritual support
"It is my duty to be a resource to cancer patients, helping them to find a better, more hopeful place of peace, rest, renewal and healing. The greater the hope, the greater the likelihood that patients will find the fortitude and strength, purpose and desire to fight cancer."

-Rev. Michael Barry, DMin, Director of Pastoral Care

Our department

For faith-based individuals, spiritual support can be a fundamental part of treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA).

Getting in touch with your spirituality may help you better cope with the psychological and emotional effects of cancer. We strive to provide universal spiritual support services for patients and their family members. If requested, a member of our pastoral care team will meet with you within the first 48 hours of your first visit to the hospital.

Spiritual support services

If you choose, you can integrate spiritual care into your treatment in a variety of ways:

  • Individual and group prayer
  • Counseling by a faith representative of your choice
  • Weekly interfaith worship and communion services
  • Communication between our pastoral care team and a family’s spiritual advisors at home
  • Patient and caregiver classes focused on healing, faith and life
  • Telephone consultations
  • Support with end-of-life issues and decisions
  • Baptisms, weddings and funerals

Chaplains can also visit with you before surgery to provide prayer and counsel. Caregivers and family members may also talk with them at any time. In addition, other clinicians, including physicians and nurses, often pray with patients as part of the care they provide.

After completing your treatment, spiritual support services are still available by phone and through our spiritual outreach program, Our Journey of Hope®.

The pastoral care team at Eastern

Rev. Michael S. Barry serves as the Director of Pastoral Care at CTCA at Eastern Regional Medical Center (Eastern). Other members of the pastoral care team include Chaplain Robin Childs, a Roman Catholic priest and nun, as well as pastors of Baptist, Hispanic, and non-denomination churches. If you would like to see someone from another faith affiliation, Rev. Barry can also contact local clergy for you as well.

Rev. Barry and his team will help you look at cancer from a different perspective—a positive one. “It takes effort to be happy and joyful. Joy and happiness are found when you stretch yourself a little bit. That’s pretty typical of the human experience. The key is, we don’t just tell patients how to be happy and joyful, we literally teach them how to do it,” says Rev. Barry.

Eastern's pastoral care team meets several times a week to discuss your needs. Your chaplain will also consult regularly with other members of your care team to find ways to support you.

For example, just as your mind-body therapist strives to help relieve your stress, so does the pastoral care team. “The Mind-Body Medicine Department deals with emotional management issues from a secular standpoint. We deal with emotion management issues from a religious standpoint,” says Rev. Barry.

Forgiveness education

Rev. Barry leads a formal Forgiveness Education Program at Eastern. According to Rev. Barry, many patients arrive at CTCA with forgiveness issues. “Most patients need to forgive themselves or others for something that happened in the past,” he says. The program explores the healing powers of forgiveness during cancer care.

The assessment and program highlights

When you first arrive at the hospital, you’ll have an opportunity to meet with a member of the pastoral care team to discuss your beliefs and assess your spiritual needs. Part of this assessment is a spirituality questionnaire, which includes a series of questions related to religious struggles. This information helps us identify if you are struggling with forgiveness issues.

The Forgiveness Education Program focuses on your need to resolve a painful past through the healing of memories. Some highlights of the program include:

  • Desire to forgive – addresses any issues of avoidance.
  • Education – defines the terms and outlines the goals of forgiveness, as well as barriers to forgiveness.
  • Internal reflection – introduces various treatment mechanisms, such as narrative therapy, exposure therapy, journaling and prayer.

Through forgiveness education, Rev. Barry and his team can help you learn to deal with things in your life that you regret and find ways to cope during your cancer treatment. “It’s about finding coping mechanisms. We try to teach patients good, strong coping mechanisms. Forgiveness is a great coping mechanism. That’s one we try to emphasize,” says Rev. Barry.

The barriers and benefits

Some common barriers to forgiveness have been identified. For example, sometimes patients believe that forgiveness equates to mental consent, anti-justice, forgetting, or reconciliation. These beliefs can be difficult to overcome.

Rev. Barry is realistic about the challenges of forgiveness. Instead of promising solutions, he tries to clear up misunderstandings by teaching what forgiveness is and is not. The goal, says Rev. Barry, is to help patients “fall out of hatred into peaceful indifference.”

The peace and well-being that often accompanies forgiveness can be an integral part of the healing process. According to Rev. Barry, the benefits of forgiveness may be experienced on many levels, including theological (your relationship with God), relational (your relationship with others) and biological (your physical well being).

Forgiveness resources

Rev. Barry offers forgiveness seminars and training to individuals and faith communities throughout the East Coast. He has also conducted numerous radio and television interviews across the country and published several books, including his most recent book titled The Forgiveness Project.

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