Man thinking

Living with illness

Psychological therapy can help us to cope with the effects of cancer and other long term illnesses. It can help with improving our self-image and support our relationships, our work and our mood.

Psychological therapy can also help with the consequences of illness including pain, fatigue and reduced mobility.

The impact of long term illness

Long-term illnesses, such as asthma, heart angina and cancer, can have a negative impact on us and the people around us, even before a diagnosis has been made.

Certain things go hand in hand with a long-term illness: living with varying degrees of uncertainty or sometimes the knowledge that things will deteriorate, having treatments, living with the side effects of these and experiencing changes to our lifestyle and relationships, some of which are driven by restrictions that stem from our physical health.

Many of us living with a long-term health conditions will have periods where we struggle or feel we cannot cope. Sometimes we may feel depressed or very anxious. Sometimes we may not confide in those around us as we don’t want to burden them. We may be scared about the future and fail to ask questions of our doctor and may not follow advice given to us.

How therapy can help with long term illness

Stress and relaxation

I can help you to reduce the stress you experience by looking at whether and how you can change the demands placed on you. I want to assist you by increasing the resources you have to cope with these demands. I can also teach you ways to relax and look after yourself.

Treating depression

We will work out what experiences and thoughts you may have that could contribute to you feeling depressed. Changes would be focused on making sense of your experiences, including loss. We will look how you can respond to the (often realistic) thoughts you might experience. Alongside the other changes, there can also be a focus on how you structure and organise your day and engage in activities known to help people improve their mood.

Improving life satisfaction

I want to help you improve your satisfaction with your life by enabling you to find ways to make life meaningful in the face of the many changes you have experienced. While changes in other areas may assist with this, it often also involves working out your strengths, learning how to compensate for difficulties and being clear about what is important to you. We work on a structure to your life that means there is room for experiences that provide you with improved satisfaction.

Living a healthy life

Good information and relationships with your health professionals will help you manage your illness better. I will help you work out what information or reassurance may be helpful and also consider how you might use the professionals involved in your care to your advantage. Living a healthy life remains important even if you are ill. Tackling depression and anxiety will already help as you may have more energy and less stress. However, becoming clearer about what changes you want to make and why, will support you to make changes to your life. This can include stopping smoking or changing your diet.

Sustain and nurture friendships

If you feel you have good support around you, both emotional and practical, you will fare better. We will look at how those around you have been affected by your ill-health and attempt to understand how this has altered your relationship with them. We will work out what you may wish to share with others and how you might manage their interest or lack of interest in how you are. I will help you consider which relationships feel important to nurture and are helpful in supporting you in coping with your illness.

Family relationships

It will help to have emotional and practical support around you. Support can come from friends but most often it is your immediate family. Poor health can be a time for intense emotions for your family and having difficult conversations is often part of living with a long-term health condition. How much you choose to share with your family can have an impact on your relationships. I work with you, and sometimes a partner or adult child, to look at patterns of interaction and where there are opportunities for change that meet both of your needs.

My experience working with long term illness

I have worked in major London hospitals and community health services, including pioneering services that support people at home, rehabilitation, cardiology, oncology, respiratory medicine, general surgery and plastic surgery. I am experienced in using a variety of psychological approaches (e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy) applied to health problems, with individuals and couples.

In these clinical specialisms, I have always been embedded in the multi-disciplinary team. I therefore have a respect for and a good understanding of the focus other professionals take and how we can work jointly to provide better outcomes.

Dr Esther Hansen


Please use the contact form to ask questions or arrange appointments. Alternatively you can email Please note that data submitted in the contact form and via email will be processed by 3rd parties.

If you wish to discuss personal or sensitive information then you may prefer to call on (0044) 020 3637 0796.

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Private Patients, Royal Free Hospital
Pond Street



+44 (0)20 3637 0796