Peter Mac News

Clinical Psychologist Dr Brindha Pillay on supporting patients through their cancer journey

13 February 2024

Brindha Pilay

A cancer diagnosis can disrupt so many areas of life. Peter Mac’s Psychosocial Oncology team helps our patients manage the physical and emotional effects of their cancer.

Since 2017 Senior Clinical Psychologist Dr Brindha Pillay has worked with people affected by cancer, providing evidence-based support to improve their mental health.

After completing her training at Monash University, Brindha worked in several Melbourne hospitals before coming to Peter Mac.

Her interest in cancer care was inspired by a project at university, so she decided to complete her Doctorate research in oncology.

Explaining what drew her to psychology Brindha says, “I really wanted a profession that allowed me to have authentic connections with people.”

Brinda will often see people very soon after their diagnosis, helping them to process what it means for them. Many people seek help managing the impact that treatment is having on their lives and family.

Brindha also works with patients who have finished treatment or are in recovery, addressing their fears about cancer reoccurrence. She often supports people coming to terms with a “new normal” in their lives and family.

Up to 40% of people experiencing cancer have a mental health concern. Some of the many reasons that my see a psychologist are to address depression or anxiety, body image, sleep problems, or fatigue. Our team also supports people who are receiving palliative care.

Our psychologists take a range of approaches, dependent on the needs of the individual. They use therapeutic techniques that include cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, existential therapy and compassion focused therapy.

Sometimes people will attend their psychology sessions alongside their carer, partner, children, or parents, for a bit of extra support.

Brindha uses empathy and understanding to make the people who see her feel safe and able to speak freely – many people with cancer have never seen a psychologist before.

“Hopefully they have a good experience with me, and the barriers to support are lowered for them in the future.”

Brindha also contributes to research projects to improve psychological care for people with cancer, and supports staff through her work in Peter Mac’s employee psychology service.

She says the best part of her work is that it is, “very rewarding.”

“Particularly when patients check in to tell us how they are doing down the track and are feeling better.”

If you are receiving care at Peter Mac and would like to access these supports, please ask your doctor for a referral.