Despite global support for the ideal of shared decision making, its enactment remains difficult in practice. The UK charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, attempted to incorporate the principles of shared decision making within a programme of distress management in Scotland. Distress management begins by completing the Distress Thermometer (DT). Although the DT is a screening tool, its function in this programme was extended to facilitate collaborative communication within a consultation. The aim of this grounded theory was to analyse the patient experience of the process. Nineteen people underwent semi-structured interviews focused on their experience of distress management. Participants were a mixed-cancer cohort aged 40-79 years. Findings were discussed in a structured manner with a further 14 service users and carers, and 19 clinical specialists in cancer. Constant comparison of all data revealed that the process of positive distress management could best be explained by reference to the core category: 'helping the clinician help me'. The emergence of this core category is detailed by situating its development within the iterative nature of the grounded theory method.