Objectives: Cancer patients who suffer from existential difficulties, including fear of death, isolation, or loss of human relationships, try to accept these fears by exploring the meaning of their life. In particular, earlier psychological intervention for patients prevents them from psychosocial maladjustment afterwards. Therefore we have developed the Short-term Existential Group therapy Program (Short-term EGP) for cancer patients focusing on relief of existential or spiritual suffering and/or pain. This study aims to statistically evaluate the effects of this program on breast cancer patients within the first year after cancer diagnosis.
Methods: 31 patients completed our research program. A ninety-minute therapeutic group session was held once a week for five weeks. We performed the above assessments three times: just before and after the intervention, as well as a month after the end of intervention. Outcome assessment included measures of spiritual well-being (SELT-M), Mental Adjustment to Cancer (MAC) and Profile of Mood States (POMS).
Results: The SELT-M “Overall QOL” scores were significantly increased after intervention, and these scores were maintained a month after intervention, particularly in those with high MAC “Hopelessness” scores. Subscales of the SELT-M scores were significantly increased after intervention, and these scores were maintained up to a month after intervention
Significance of Results: We observed that the Short-term EGP intervention was effective in helping patients relieve their existential distresses. Some of the treatment effects were observed to be maintained a month after end of the intervention. In addition, Short-term EGP is particularly effective for those patients who feel hopelessness after cancer diagnosis.
Trial registration The study protocol was approved by the ethics committee of the Department of Psychology of Kyoto Notre Dame University (H22-3,14-008).