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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • psychodynamic psychotherapy;
  • psycho-oncology;
  • qualitative study;
  • oncology

Abstract

Background

To investigate the focus of psychodynamic-oriented interventions in cancer patients by means of a qualitative analysis of the therapists' reports.

Methods

One hundred thirty-five reports collected within a controlled psychotherapy trial were analyzed; the themes addressed during the intervention were classified in categories reflecting the focus of the intervention and correlated with sociodemographic and medical data and type of intervention.

Results

Twenty main themes were identified and classified in two categories: category 1 corresponded to interventions based on expression and support, and category 2 to interventions based on introspection, with subcategory 2.1 focusing on the patient's psychological functioning and subcategory 2.2 focusing on his way to engage and communicate in relationships.

While the most frequently addressed theme was related to the diagnosis of cancer (N = 102/576; 22.6%), the majority of themes were related to other concerns (N = 446/576; 77.4%). Half of the interventions (50.4%) were classified in category 1, 27.4% in category 2.1, and 9.6% in category 2.2. Patients of category 1 entered less often brief psychotherapy (step 2 of the intervention) and more frequently suffered from advances disease.

Conclusions

A wide variety of themes are addressed in psychodynamic interventions in the oncology setting, illustrating that cancer is not the only focus of therapy. Other themes reflect different psychological difficulties triggered by the disease. This study illustrates that cancer patients have different needs, which surpass the event of the disease. Early clarification and comprehension of the demand may therefore be beneficial to adjust the therapeutic approach. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.