Lewis, F.M., Cochrane, B.B., Fletcher, K.A., Zahlis, E.H., Shands, M.E., Gralow, J.R., . . . Schmitz, K. (2008). Helping Her Heal: A pilot study of an educational counseling intervention for spouses of women with breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 17, 131–137.doi:10.1002/pon.1203
To enhance spouses’ skills and confidence in communicating and interpersonally supporting their wives with breast cancer
To improve spouses’ self-care, depressed mood, anxiety, and marital adjustment
Baseline measures of the six study scales were obtained: depression, spouse skills, anxiety, self-efficacy of spouse, marital quality, and interpersonal sensitivity and mutuality. Five one-hour sessions were scheduled and delivered at two-week intervals. Details of the fully scripted educational counseling intervention session were described, and content was presented in a tabular format. Homework for each participant to complete with his wife was assigned to build skills and enhance efficacy. An exit interview with each participant and his wife was conducted. Post-test measures were taken.
A pre/post-test pilot study design was used.
Depressed mood and anxiety were significantly (p = 0.001 and p < 0.001, respectively) diminished; self-efficacy was significantly improved; spousal skills were significantly (p < 0.001) improved; and marital quality was significantly (p = 0.028) improved but only on one of the affectional expression subscales. There was no significant improvement on the other subscales of marital quality. There were no significant changes in the cancer-specific measure of marital quality. Spouses verbalized that the educational counseling intervention was helpful, specifically for listening skills.
A brief, structured, skill-focused, efficacy-enhancing educational counseling intervention has the potential to positively affect spouses’ adjustment (mood and anxiety), skills, self-efficacy, and self-care during the diagnosis and treatment phase of their wife’s breast cancer. The program focuses the intervention on the spouse to reduce tension and improve interpersonal communication regarding the wife’s diagnosis, treatment, feelings, and associated emotions.
The Helping Her Heal program offers promise to assist with building coping skills and support strategies for couples by educational counseling intervention among spouses of people with breast cancer and other chronic conditions.