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How To Cope With A Serious Illness With Humor Sports Psychology And Self-Hypnosis

Posted by: Dr. Granat on January 1, 2018

Jay P. Granat, Ph.D.

My wife was recently diagnosed with an inoperable, cancerous brain tumor.

This came as a complete shock to myself, to my spouse, to my kids and to ou friends.

We were all terrified, worried, frightened and trying to remember to take on thing at a time and remain as positive as optimistic as possible

After visiting five hospitals and consulting a dozen doctors, we have decided on a treatment plan.

While sitting in one of the family waiting rooms in one of the hospitals, I noticed a woman sitting alone in the corner. She was very unhappy. You did not have to be Sigmund Freud to see that she was sullen, sad and alone.

Having practiced psychotherapy for almost thirty years, I felt like I could be helpful and decided to try to start a chat with her.

I sat close to her and said, it looks like you are having a very bad day. At first, she seemed a bit bothered by me, but when I asked her who was being operated on, she explained that her husband was undergoing his second serious cardiac procedure.

I encouraged her to hang in there and asked if she needed any help while she was waiting. She thanked me and let me know that her sister would be there shortly. I reassured her that probably would help and the waiting would be less painful if her family member was there.

She thanked me for talking with her and even gave me a half smile as I went back to my original seat.

Then I started a conversation with another woman who happened to live in my town.

We did not know each other prior to this meeting but we shared the same name, so the conversation flowed easily and in a friendly manner.

Then a man who eats at my favorite bar and restaurant came in to the room. We, too, did not know each other, but we began to talk, listen and share our experiences in the hospital and our concerns.

Apparently, he had been in this waiting area every day for a week.

Now, as I noted above, I have almost thirty years as a psychotherapist and I have run many support groups in the past.

While I did not plan or want to run a therapy group in the hospital, I did realize that humor, team building and interpersonal interaction among the families of the patients could be useful, therapeutic and maybe even fun for everyone.

In the past, I won third place in the funniest therapist contest sponsored by Comedy CentraI in New York. I love telling stories and jokes and I use humor frequently in my therapy sessions.  Recently, I did a stand up routine at a senior facility.

So I could not quiet myself in the waiting room and I told a few doctor jokes and got some laughter and smiles from the people.

Some of them asked if I could come back tomorrow. I said I would try to be there, depending on how my wife was doing.

I realized that the humor, sport psychology techniques and hypnosis that have been cornerstones of my practice could be really helpful to people who are dealing with illness of a family, friend or loved one.

So, I have decided to run a support group for families of people who have serious illness.

The groups will meet once a week at my offices in New Jersey. We will start with each member sharing a humorous story, anecdote, experience, event or coping skill.

Then I will show members how to use sport psychology techniques and mental toughness to manage the stress, sadness, anger, loneliness and frustration they are experiencing when a loved one is stricken with a serious illness.

I will also teach participants how to use hypnosis, meditation and visualization to cope with their feelings.

The fee for participants will be minimal and a portion of the proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society.

The group will meet one night a week and we may expand it to a podcast, depending on interest. We may also use Skype or Facetime.

People who want to attend should call my offices at 201 647-9191 or email me at

My wife, Robin, was a competitive figure skater and some skaters, coaches and athletes from this world have already shown some interest. I suggested, that the skaters use the same energy they use to spin, jump, and fly to launch this idea.

People who want to be involved in growing this support group or funding this venture in some way can also reach me at or at 201 647-9191.

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