The Program and the Levels

The Healing Journey is a progressive, stepwise program for cancer patients interested in doing more to help themselves, as an addition to conventional medical treatment.

Recent research, both at the Princess Margaret Hospital and abroad shows that undertaking psychological self help work of this kind almost always improves quality of life, and may in some cases help people with cancer live much longer, as well as better. The skills learned through the Healing Journey Program can improve communication with others, lessen anxiety and depression, and provide a welcome sense of control.

Healing is a progressive process which depends on a gradual increase in understanding and "connection" with all parts of ourselves. Our classes reflect this: there is a “core curriculum” of 3 steps or levels, each building on the last. The 3 levels require 20 sessions in total, and cover most of the basic ideas and skills needed for self-directed healing. The basic course (level 1) is conducted 4 or 5 times per year, and levels II and III, 2 times per year. Graduates of the core curriculum may attend an ongoing, twice-monthly “follow-up” group that deals mainly with spiritual aspects of the healing journey. In addition, there are longer term, weekly therapy groups for people with metastatic cancer.

Dr Alastair Cunningham, director of the program, has been involved in cancer-related research since 1965, first as a cell biologist, and then as a psychologist. He has been for many years a senior scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute, and is professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. He has received various awards for his work on helping cancer patients, including Officer of the Order of Canada, and the First Rogers’ prize for ”Excellence in Complementary Medicine”. Dr Cunningham’s research has shown how much people can do to diminish the distress cancer brings by learning self-management techniques, and in some cases possibly to live longer as a result. He has published a number of books on the subject which may be accessed through this website.

The Levels

There are currently five successive steps in the Healing Journey Program. Sessions are held regularly, and the skills learned are enhanced by practice at home between group meetings. For patients and family members.

Level 1: Coping with Cancer Stress, includes stress management techniques such as deep relaxation, thought control, mental imaging, emotional expression and goal setting. Once a week for four weeks.
Level 2: Skills for Healing, includes self-help methods such as meditation, consulting an inner healer, spiritual aspects of healing, journal writing and small group discussion. Once a week for eight weeks.
Level 3: Steps towards Spiritual Healing, a course in understanding and diminishing the common obstacles to spiritual experience. Once a week for eight weeks.
Level 4: Becoming Authentic, ten weekly sessions designed to consolidate what has been learned in levels 1–3, and to foster the qualities we have found in people who have greatly outlived their prognoses: authenticity, autonomy and acceptance.
Level 5: Introduction to A Course in Miracles, a study of a profound spiritual text concerned with healing. Once a week for nine weeks.

Discussion groups meet once weekly for graduates wishing to continue their contact with the Healing Journey.

All of us in the Healing Journey team hope that people with cancer and their family members will go as far as possible in their journey towards health and peace of mind.

To Enroll

To enroll for The Healing Journey Program, located at Princess Margaret Hospital, please phone Jan Ferguson at (416) 946-2062.

In addition, the Healing Journey Program is now also offered at a number of Wellspring Cancer Centres in Toronto and other parts of Canada. You can contact Wellspring at 416-961-1928 or go to their website at



  ©2008 Created and Maintained by Ghuhan Buwaneswaran & Hayman Buwan-Buwaneswaran