Helping patients make decisions about complementary and alternative treatments: the social work role.


Increasingly people are using complementary and alternative modalities (CAM) to cope with and manage cancer. Many patients, however, do not know how to access credible information and make informed treatment decisions. Social workers are in a unique position in the healthcare team to facilitate patients' decision-making about CAM. Skills and techniques to educate patients and to help them communicate with their healthcare practitioners about CAM are described. The authors introduce questions patients should ask to make better-informed treatment decisions, and describe social work interventions to help patients explore their choices in the context of personal history, meaning, beliefs and lifestyle. Lastly, the position of the social worker vis à vis the institution and its stance on CAM is explored.


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