Objective: Cancer patients experience many negative psychological symptoms including stress, anxiety, and depression. This distress is not limited to the patient, as their partners also experience many psychological challenges. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs have demonstrated clinical benefit for a variety of chronic illnesses, including cancer. This is the first study to report MBSR participation with partners of cancer patients.
Methods: This study examined the impact of an 8-week MBSR program for 21 couples who attended the program together on outcomes of mood disturbance, symptoms of stress, and mindfulness.
Results: Significant reductions for both patients and partners in mood disturbance (p<0.05) and the Calgary Symptoms of Stress Inventory (C-SOSI) subscales of muscle tension (p<0.01), neurological/GI (p<0.05), and upper respiratory (p<0.01) symptoms were observed after program participation. Significant increases in mindfulness (p<0.05) were also reported in both groups. No significant correlations were observed between patient and partner scores on any measures at baseline or on change scores pre- to post-intervention; however, after MBSR participation couple's scores on the Profile of Mood States and C-SOSI were more highly correlated with one-another. Post-intervention, partners' mood disturbance scores were significantly positively correlated with patients' symptoms of stress and negatively correlated with patients' levels of mindfulness.
Conclusions: Overall, the MBSR program was helpful for improving psychological functioning and mindfulness for both members of the couple. Several avenues of future research are suggested to further explore potential benefits of joint couple attendance in the MBSR program. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.