Partner-assisted emotional disclosure for patients with GI cancer: 8-week follow-up and processes associated with change
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We recently reported that a partner-assisted emotional disclosure intervention for gastrointestinal cancer led to improvements in relationship quality and intimacy for couples in which the patient initially reported higher levels of holding back from discussing cancer-related concerns. The purposes of the present study were to examine outcomes at 8-week follow-up and process variables that may influence treatment effects.
One hundred thirty couples were randomly assigned to either partner-assisted emotional disclosure or an education/support control condition. Participants completed measures of relationship quality, intimacy, and psychological distress before randomization, post-treatment, and 8 weeks later. Patients in the disclosure intervention completed measures of negative affect immediately following each treatment session, and their level of expressiveness during the sessions was rated by trained observers. Data were analyzed using multilevel modeling.
Among couples in which the patient initially reported higher levels of holding back, the disclosure intervention led to improvements in relationship quality and intimacy that were maintained at 8-weeks follow-up. High levels of patient expressiveness during the disclosure sessions were associated with improvements in relationship quality and intimacy, and high levels of patient negative affect immediately following the sessions were associated with reductions in psychological distress at the post-test assessment.
For couples in which the patient tends to hold back from discussing concerns, partner-assisted emotional disclosure is a beneficial intervention leading to improvements in relationship functioning that maintain over time. Future research is needed to examine methods of enhancing intervention effects, including encouraging patient expressiveness and negative affect during the sessions.
KeywordsGastrointestinal cancer Disclosure Couples Psychosocial intervention
This study was funded by grant R01 CA100743 from the National Cancer Institute. The authors thank Susan Elinoff, Laura Harris, M.S.W., Regina Regan, M.S.W., Rebecca Shelby, Ph.D., Catherine Moser, Ph.D., Johanna Bendell, M.D., Leigh Howard, R.N., and the physicians and staff of the Duke GI Oncology Clinic for their assistance. They also extend their gratitude to all of the study participants for their time and effort.
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