Searching for Owls: A Case of Intersubjective Psycho-Oncology

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Nicole Taylor, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Peter Buirski, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Emily Markley, Psy.D.


Cancer, Trauma, Psychodynamic, Intersubjective, Psycho-oncology

Publication Statement

Copyright held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


The diagnosis and treatment of cancer is a traumatic experience and can be a reminder of past trauma. Despite the relationships between cancer, trauma, and other forms of psychological distress, only about 10% of cancer patients get referred to out-patient psychotherapy. Typical psycho-oncology therapies include cognitive and behavioral approaches. There is limited and mixed research related to psychodynamic therapies with cancer patients. This case conceptualized trauma from an intersubjective perspective and demonstrated the relationship between a cancer survivor's psychological distress and developmental trauma. The case is an example of practicing intersubjectively and highlights experiences of empathy, witnessing, and co-transference in the therapy relationship. Such practice helped the patient develop new organizing principles and tolerate previously intolerable memories. The patient became an active participant in her life and felt free to engage in meaningful activities long after therapy ended. Implications of the intersubjective formulation of trauma and psycho-oncology are discussed.


40 pgs

Paper Method

Case Study

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