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Family therapy reduces stress symptoms in adolescent survivors of childhood cancer

s have PTSS at levels nearly as high as mothers. "Many of the fathers in this study said they had feared that expressing their upsetting memories would be detrimental to other family members," Dr. Kazak added. "They found that sharing those reactions with their family was a powerful experience, and helped to reduce their sense of being isolated with those feelings."

Surprisingly, mothers of survivors did not show a significant effect from the treatment. One complicating factor, said Dr. Kazak, is that families with higher PTSS levels were more likely to drop out of the study. A statistical analysis of their findings suggested that the treatment would have had stronger effects if the families with higher distress levels had completed the study.

"Delving into distressing memories is difficult," Dr. Kazak added. "Many families had reservations about opening this can of worms. However, families who did participate in the treatment benefited from it." She added that future treatments might occur away from a hospital setting, because people with PTSS may avoid locations such as hospitals that are associated with the cancer experience.

For the treatment, the researchers used the Surviving Cancer Competently Intervention Program (SCCIP), established by Dr. Kazak and her team at Children's Hospital. The four-session, one-day program uses a family group treatment model. Employing cognitive-behavioral principles, therapists encouraged group participants to identify bothersome memories about the child's cancer and to express personal beliefs about the adverse experiences.

Therapists then taught the participants coping skills by encouraging them to reframe their thoughts to focus on controllable and positive consequences. "We might urge a survivor to say, for example, 'Cancer is still unfair, but what can I do about it now?"' said Dr. Kazak,

In family discussion groups, the researchers offered take-home messages to assist family members
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Contact: John Ascenzi
Ascenzi@email.chop.edu
267-426-6055
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
26-Oct-2004


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