Background: There is ample scope to devise forms of psychotherapy in consultation-liaison psychiatry, including the newly evolving area of psycho-oncology. Aims: To highlight the development of psychotherapy in psycho-oncology, providing two illustrations. Method: We report on conceptual and clinical research in the context of oncology and palliative care, focusing on (a) an approach for families at risk of maladaptive bereavement; and (b) a group programme for women newly diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. Results: We were able to introduce new forms of psychological treatment for specific clinical groups, and anecdotal evidence points to useful benefits for participants. Conclusions: Psychotherapists should grasp the opportunity to bring their skills to the medical arena, but need to subject newly devised interventions to well-designed and methodologically rigorous research. Declaration of interest. This research has been supported by the Australian Rotary Health Fund, Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.