Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 8, pp 2901–2910 | Cite as

The effectiveness of solution-focused brief therapy for psychological distress among Chinese parents of children with a cancer diagnosis: a pilot randomized controlled trial

  • Anao Zhang
  • QingYing JiEmail author
  • Jennifer Currin-McCulloch
  • Phyllis Solomon
  • YuTing Chen
  • Yaxi Li
  • Barbara Jones
  • Cynthia Franklin
  • Jack Nowicki
Original Article



Given the critical role of parental care for pediatric cancer patients, this pilot study evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of a hospital-based solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) intervention for reducing psychological distress among parents of pediatric cancer patients in China. Differences between treatment and active control (AC) groups were assessed on dimensions of psychological distress. Parents’ level of hope was also assessed.


Participants (N = 44) were randomly assigned to SFBT or AC. Parents received four sessions of SFBT twice a week delivered by graduate-level hospital social workers. Pre- and post-intervention assessments measured change in distress (depression, anxiety, and somatization symptoms) of parents as well as their level of hope.


Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) indicated the SFBT group had better outcomes than the AC group on overall distress of somatic, anxiety, depression symptoms and level of hope. Within- and between-group treatment effects reported significantly greater effect of the SFBT group than of the AC group.


Considering the inherent limits of a pilot feasibility study, results suggest that SFBT is a feasible, culturally compatible, and promising intervention for alleviating distress among Chinese parents of children with cancer. Additional comprehensive trials are needed to draw more definitive conclusions.


SFBT may be beneficial for improving the critical support systems of parents of pediatric cancer patients. Thus, SFBT may have the potential to enhance children’s well-being during cancer treatment and recovery.


Solution-focused brief therapy Pediatric oncology Psychological distress Parents 


Compliance with ethical standards

This study was approved by the medical ethics review board at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center affiliated to Shanghai Jiaotong University Medical School. The corresponding author has full access to the raw data but needs to receive permission from the hospital’s IRB to gain full control of the data. Medical ethics review board of the hospital requires separate application to submit raw data to any third-party agency/institution. Therefore, the author will not be able to submit the data until it is approved by the hospital’s IRB.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Michigan School of Social WorkAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Shanghai Children’s Medical CenterShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Shanghai Children’s Medical Center affiliated to Shanghai Jiaotong University School of MedicineShanghaiChina
  4. 4.The University of Texas at Austin, Steve Hicks School of Social WorkAustinUSA
  5. 5.University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & PracticePhiladelphiaUSA

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