Communication and Intimacy-Enhancing Interventions for Men Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and Their Partners


Corresponding Author: Christian J. Nelson, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 641 Lexington Ave., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10022, USA. Tel: (646) 888-0030; Fax: (212) 888-2356; E-mail:



The sexual dysfunction following prostate cancer treatments often leads to a reduction in intimate contact for couples. A number of psychosocial interventions have been developed to enhance intimacy in these couples. This paper reviews three of these interventions and is a summary of a presentation given as part of a symposium at the 2011 Cancer Survivorship and Sexual Health Meeting.


The goal of this presentation was to: (i) review three types of psychosocial interventions; and (ii) describe the methodological issues highlighted by these interventions.

Main Outcome Measures

Validated measures of relationship intimacy and communication.


To be selected, the interventions had to be: a randomized control trial, focus on a couples approach to therapy, and report at least one relationship outcome.


The results were not consistent within or across studies, and suggest that some specific aspects of the interventions may be helpful for the patient, while other aspects of the studies may be helpful for the partner. The Northouse et al. study suggests that partners may benefit from a focus on couple work, as compared to the patient. The Canada et al. study indicates that when focusing on sexual functioning, working with a couple did not show significant benefit compared to working with a man alone. The study did show, however, that a sexual-based intervention can improve the use of erectile dysfunction treatments and suggests patients may benefit from specific focus on side effects of treatment. The Manne et al. study highlights the importance of targeting these interventions to couples who report distress, and for distressed couples, an intervention can show positive results.


Intimacy enhancing interventions can be effective for couples, while the partners may benefit more from couples work; the patients may benefit more from focus on specific side effects.