Texas Tech Department of Psychology Provides Services to Cancer Patients

Written by Sherrel Jones

Looking worried and exhausted, she approached him a few weeks after starting a new job. Although she maintained a smile, he knew the deep despair she was holding back.

She spoke to him about how life used to be and how difficult completing everyday tasks to care for her husband had become.

“It was evidence to me of the resiliency and strength that people can possess while coping with cancer,” said Matt Ashton, psychology team member. “Even though frailty was setting in, she still had a twinkle in her eyes.”

Ashton is one of psychology doctoral students from Texas Tech University’s Department of Psychology, which teams up with the Southwest Cancer Treatment and Research Center to provide psychosocial services for cancer patients.

Psychosocial health services are psychological and social services that enable patients and their families to optimize biomedical health care and to manage the psychological, behavioral and social aspects of illness to promote better health.

 Arranging a partnership between a cancer center and a university academic department is not a difficult task, said Susan Hendrick, Department of Psychology chairperson. It simply requires due diligence, excellent communication, mutual respect and a shared goal of providing training opportunities for psychosocial professionals and improving psychosocial cancer care for patients and their families.

For the most part, patients are seen on an individual basis, Ashton said, but the team effort comes into play as members coordinate patient information and needs throughout the week. Members meet each Friday to discuss cases and coordinate needs for the upcoming week and with specific patients.

“We have a lot of fun together, even though we often talk about serious situations that are anything but funny,” Ashton said. “Dr. Hendrick is especially good at keeping a light mood and a smile on her face. Yet, the care and concern for the patients that we serve also is abundantly evident. It’s a joy to be a part of.”

A cancer center is the perfect setting for both graduate students and the practicum site, Hendrick said. Students receive excellent training as part of a multidisciplinary healthcare team, while patients receive quality psychosocial care.

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CONTACT: Susan Hendrick, department chairperson, Department of Psychology, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-3711, or s.hendrick@ttu.edu