After the Diagnosis: Helping Patients Cope With their Emotions

After the Diagnosis: Helping Patients Cope With their Emotions

by Gary McClain

Psychotherapist Gary McClain discusses the importance of understanding clients' reactions to new diagnoses, the three main responses they have, and advocating for them with healthcare providers.

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The New Normal

“I just got diagnosed. Now what do I do?”

The focus of my professional work is on helping patients to cope with medical diagnosis, so I hear this question a lot. But many psychotherapists tell me that their patients also talk to them about their health issues, including sudden, serious medical diagnoses.

As mental health professionals, we may provide the only opportunity that newly-diagnosed patients have to talk to someone in this situation. The traditional medical establishment is equipped to help patients from a medical, but not an emotional, perspective. Family members and friends are also suddenly thrust into the emotional chaos surrounding the diagnosis, and often need help with their own emotions and helplessness.
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Gary  McClain
Gary R. McClain, PhD, LMHC, CEAP, is a psychotherapist, patient advocate, and author in private practice in New York City, with a focus on newly-diagnosed patients. His publications include a supplementary textbook for healthcare professionals, After the Diagnosis: How Patients React and How to Help Them Cope (Delmar, 2010). He blogs as “Dr. Gary” on the social health communities of and is Mental Health Editor of He maintains an award-winning Website, He can be reached at
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CE credits: 1
Learning objectives:

  • Define the three most common reactions to serious medical diagnoses.
  • Learn about ways to help patients become "fighters."
  • Illustrate the importance of working with healthcare providers during treatment.
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