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Cognitive Existential Couple Therapy for newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients and their partners: a descriptive pilot study

Authors


Correspondence to: Psycho-Oncology Research Unit, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, Australia. E-mail: anna.collins@petermac.org

Abstract

Objective

This paper aims to describe ‘Cognitive Existential Couple Therapy’ (CECT), a novel couples-based intervention for men with early stage prostate cancer (PCa) and their partners, and to report preliminary findings from a pilot study that investigated the acceptability and feasibility of the intervention and the measures to be used in a subsequent randomised controlled trial.

Methods

A manualised CECT programme was delivered to 12 couples facing a diagnosis of PCa within the previous 12 months by psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. Participants completed measures of psychological distress, marital function and coping pattern before and after CECT. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine couples shortly after the completion of CECT.

Results

The application of CECT was both feasible and acceptable as indicated by favourable participant compliance (10 of the 12 couples attended all six designated sessions), completion of measures before and after CECT and participation in semi-structured interviews by nine couples. Preliminary results included reduced levels of avoidance and hyperarousal after the programme, with this effect stronger in partners than in patients. Interviews demonstrated that couples valued the therapist's contribution to their overall care.

Conclusions

Previous research suggests that a couple-focused psychological intervention is desirable in the context of early stage PCa. This pilot study has established that CECT is acceptable, feasible and valued by couples facing a recent PCa diagnosis and demonstrates a potential for reduced psychological distress following CECT. A randomised controlled trial is currently being undertaken to validate the efficacy of this novel approach. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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