The Women's Cancer Resource Center's Free Therapy Progam By Ali Vogt, LMFT

October 09, 2012 9:23 PM | Admin EBCAMFT
Bernice is a 48-year old African American woman who was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer in August. Unfortunately the diagnosis came in the midst of an extended depressive episode. She has no support system and her husband has recently become physically abusive. She is desperate for someone to talk to and help her work things out.

Maggie had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 16 and then breast cancer at age 34 and recently had a bilateral mastectomy. She is unable to work due to the neuropathy in her hands and feels directionless in her life.

Anna’s relationship with her husband has always been difficult but now with her recent stage two breast cancer diagnosis, things have gotten worse. She and her husband want couples counseling with a Spanish-speaking therapist.

These three women are typical clients in the Women’s Cancer Resource Center’s Free Therapy Program. Their issues are “every day” in some respects and yet dire with the added challenge of cancer. Being a therapist in this program is a privilege because the issues these women face are literally life and death.

As most of us know, there is a great need for therapy services in low-income and uninsured communities. The American Cancer Society issued a compelling Report to the Nation, which found that poor Americans were receiving substandard health care. As mortality rates for cancers have improved for certain populations, African American and Latino women continue to present with late stage diagnoses and die from this disease. This is especially of concern in Alameda County, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse regions in the nation and where 11.5% of the population lives below federal poverty level resulting in disparities in disease, disability, and healthcare. As a result of the economic downturn, resources for therapy, cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment continue to diminish. Barriers such as limited English proficiency and illiteracy, and patient-health provider communication difficulties due to cultural beliefs, and myths and fears about cancer often delay treatment resulting in a more advanced cancer presentation at the time of diagnosis.

The Women’s Cancer Resource Center (WCRC) is at the forefront of providing services to all women with any cancer, from all backgrounds, economic abilities, and ethnicities. Our clients include women with new diagnoses, in remission/survivorship, living with metastatic disease, and receiving end-of-life care. We provide an array of programs designed to help our clients cope with the physical and emotional changes caused by diagnosis, treatment, and the challenges of caring for someone with cancer. The Free Therapy Program, offers 12 free psychotherapy sessions to low-income and/or uninsured individuals and couples that desire a safe place to discuss any issue related to their cancer diagnosis.

Who does the therapy? Therapists and interns just like you who are in a private practice and want to volunteer in a meaningful way. Therapy can take place in the therapist’s office – which makes it a convenient volunteer opportunity - or in a private space at WCRC. The therapists are the newest intern to the most seasoned Psyd’s, PhD’s, MFT’s and LCSW’s. We have therapists from all cultural backgrounds and three that speak Spanish fluently.

The Free Therapy Program volunteers offer 12 free fifty-minute sessions after which the client can become the therapist’s client if a fee can be agreed upon. Volunteering can lead to practice building. The therapist also receives clinical training on end-of-life issues, and cancer, through bi-monthly seminars held at WCRC. These trainings are enriching networking and community building events.

This program is only one of the many that the Women’s Cancer Resource Center (WCRC) provides for our community. We provide information on prevention and early detection and do outreach to underserved communities throughout the East Bay. Core programs are led by staff and volunteers and include: information and referral to community resources, support groups, in-home support, psychotherapy, emergency financial assistance, cancer and wellness workshops, and navigation through an often complex and overwhelming health care system to ensure appropriate care and treatment.

Though the majority of our clients are diagnosed with breast cancer, WCRC serves all women with any cancer and all programs and services are FREE of charge.

As with all our programs at WCRC, volunteers are the heart of the Free Therapy Program. Currently the program has 30 therapists actively seeing clients. We are consistently recruiting a diverse group of therapists to meet the needs of our clients. We are hoping to attract therapists in the East Bay and San Francisco. We are especially interested in therapists who identify as African American and who speak Spanish fluently.

For more information, contact Ali Vogt, MFT at 13a42d64d98a45a1__GoBack. To learn more about WCRC please see

Ali Vogt, MFT, is the Clinical Manager of WCRC’s Psychotherapy Programs. She also has a private practice in San Francisco and Oakland where she works with adult individuals and adolescent girls.


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