Lorelei Bonet, LCSW
Though usually chronic in scope, cancer is unique among chronic diseases in both implication and process. I have worked in a therapeutic capacity with patients diagnosed with chronic illness since 2004, and have dedicated my life specifically to work with cancer patients since 2008. In a general sense, my responsibilities include provision of psychological and emotional support to patients and their families. This can include assessment of needs, identification of and connection to resources, advocacy, and facilitation of communication between patients and their medical team. My responsibilities include work in the outpatient setting, in clinics and in private consultation to help ease the way, to make meaning and to try to create order in the midst of what can be an overwhelming and life altering experience. Only when we are our truest selves can we be our best selves. This notion is central to how I frame my clinical work, helping to move through the complexity, fear, sadness, shock and chaos of cancer to find the core of who we are.
After studying theater in New York City at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I worked in a variety of fields prior to returning to my education. I received my BA at Hunter College of the City University of New York with a double major in Psychology and Theater. I then initiated Ph.D. studies in social psychology with a focus on Health Psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, working in HIV research for nearly four years. During this time, it became very clear to me that the elements of the work that I loved most and felt were most gratifying had nothing to do with research, and everything to do with the people I encountered, who were willing to share the intimate details of their life stories with me. Their honesty, resilience, and depth taught me more than I could have imagined, and I decided to re-focus my energies on a Masters of Social Work degree. In my second and final year of masters level study at the University of Southern California, I was encouraged to pursue an internship at the Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, at which point the trajectory of my life changed, and I found what I believe is my true calling—work with cancer patients and their families.
In many ways, my varied and indirect path has been a profound blessing. I have worked in many settings, ranging from pharmaceutical advertising to work in an executive fitness center, selling chocolates to editing stock video footage. As my interests narrowed, so did my ability to focus on new skills needed to move forward in my selected field. After graduating with my MSW from USC, I was immediately hired as the oncology social worker at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. It was at St. Joseph’s that I was able to gain clinical confidence as well as a true understanding of the complex machine that is contemporary healthcare. A diverse patient population in both the in- and out-patient settings allowed me to hone my skills as an advocate, mediator, a collaborator, and facilitator of support groups. As part of my continuing professional trajectory, I earned my state licensure in May of 2013. My time at St. Joseph’s was a period of immense change and transition, both personally and professionally, and I knew, when the opportunity came for me to return to the Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, the place where I “hatched,” that I was doing so as my best self, ready to contribute to a new setting and enter a new chapter of my life.
I believe that the best life is one that allows constant growth, evolution and change. I consider myself to be always learning and part of this process for me is my dedication to our intern training program. I have overseen the training of oncology interns in the hospital setting, and am excited to participate in the well-developed, multidisciplinary intern training environment of the Simms/Mann Center. I have attended professional conferences and trainings in CBT and other modalities and areas of specialization including palliative care and pain management and the implementation of advance directives and POLST forms in the medical setting.
Insights Into Cancer Lecture
Personal Interests and Perspectives
In my personal life, it is important to me to cultivate curiosity, to allow for creativity, dabble in the silly and laugh whenever I can. Tomorrow is promised to no one, and each day is an opportunity to connect to our lives and to what is possible. Music and art are key components of my own self-awareness and self-care. I strum a mean ukulele, and enjoy playing and singing songs of all genres and sharing them with friends and family. I am an artist who sometimes channels my personal experiences into my art, working in glass, oil paint, and printmaking. Through these media, I am reminded of the fragile, mutable and immutable, permanent and ephemeral. I am absolutely blessed by a supportive, loving, diverse and wildly entertaining circle of friends and family who have taught me how to love and be. So far the thing I know for sure is that life rarely takes you where you think you’re going, but will always get you where you need to be. Oncology is a field that finds you. When you get the call, as I and my colleagues have done, it changes your world view, enhances perspective, creates meaning, and has given me both purpose and direction. In my work, I have learned and been given so much more than I can even begin to articulate. To be a part of the crafting of a story, of the constellation of loss and love and beauty that can be cancer, is a blessing beyond measure and for which I am deeply grateful.