Get access

Group support for couples coping with a cardiac condition


Miriam Stewart Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, 3rd Floor Clinical Sciences Building, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2G3, Canada. E-mail:


Group support for couples coping with a cardiac condition

Background/Rationale. Support groups of peers were designed to convey support specific to stressful situations encountered by persons with a first-time myocardial infarction and by their spouse or partners. There were no previous published support intervention studies focused on the couple. Survivors and spouses (n=28) participated in a pilot study which tested the effect of a 12-week support group intervention.

Design. The support groups for couples were cofacilitated by a peer and professional. The facilitators recorded field notes, while participants completed weekly diaries about the intervention activities. Following the intervention, participants were interviewed individually and facilitators were interviewed jointly about the perceived effect of the intervention and influencing factors. This article focuses on the facilitators’ and participants’ perceptions of intervention processes and outcomes.

Findings. Support processes in the group included social comparison, social learning, and social exchange. Three types of support – emotional, information, and affirmation – were provided. All participants were satisfied with the support intervention and referred to the positive effect on their coping, confidence, outlook, and spousal relationship. Factors that influenced the intervention effect were participant input, cofacilitation, similarity of group members, and the provision of information and support.

Conclusions. Future interventions could consider similarity of peers, leadership, and optimum timing and duration.