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Patients’ experiences of life review therapy combined with memory specificity training (LRT-MST) targeting cancer patients in palliative care



Life review therapy combined with memory specificity training (LRT-MST) is effective in cancer patients in palliative care, but the effect size is moderate. The aim of this qualitative study was to obtain more in-depth knowledge on motivation to start with LRT-MST, experiences with LRT-MST, and perceived outcomes of LRT-MST.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 cancer patients in palliative care who participated in a randomized controlled trial investigating the effect of LRT-MST. All interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed by means of thematic analysis independently by two coders and coded into key issues and themes.


Patients started LRT-MST for intrinsic (e.g., potential benefit for personal well-being) and extrinsic reasons (e.g., potential benefit for future patients). Patients indicated mainly positive experiences with the intervention. They appreciated sharing their memories and regaining memories with a specific focus on retrieving positive memories. Some disliked the fact that negative memories could not be addressed. Most patients perceived positive outcomes of the intervention belonging to the overarching themes “ego-integrity” and “psychological well-being” in the here and now, as well as in the nearby future (including end-of-life).


LRT-MST is of added value as a psychological intervention in palliative care. This study provided in-depth insight into reasons to start the intervention, and the experiences and outcomes, which are important to further tailor LRT-MST and for development or improvement of other psychological interventions targeting cancer patients in palliative care.

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We want to thank Myrna Hofstee for her help in conducting this study.


This study is funded by ZonMw, The Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development [grant number: 11510003].

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Correspondence to Irma M. Verdonck-de Leeuw.

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The authors have full control of all primary data and agree to allow Supportive Care in Cancer to review the data if requested.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Kleijn, G., van Uden-Kraan, C.F., Bohlmeijer, E.T. et al. Patients’ experiences of life review therapy combined with memory specificity training (LRT-MST) targeting cancer patients in palliative care. Support Care Cancer 27, 3311–3319 (2019).

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  • Cancer
  • Life review therapy
  • Autobiographical memory
  • Palliative care
  • Qualitative research