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The perceived effects of psycho-spiritual integrative therapy and community support groups on coping with breast cancer: a qualitative analysis

Cynthia McDonald, Kathleen Wall, Diana Corwin, Christine Brooks, Cheryl Koopman


Background: Few studies have assessed the efficacy of interventions that specifically address the unmet spiritual needs of cancer patients. This exploratory qualitative study sought to address this gap by comparing the subjective effects of Psycho-Spiritual Integrative Therapy (PSIT) groups and community-based support groups on coping and post-traumatic growth among women diagnosed with breast cancer. Community-based breast cancer support groups generally emphasize social support, emotional expression and problem solving, whereas PSIT emphasizes spiritual as well as psychological and existential development. PSIT offers a patient-centered approach in which this personal growth can be tailored to the participant’s beliefs and values.

Methods: The study sample consisted of 24 participants; 12 from PSIT groups and 12 from community-based cancer support groups. Thematic analysis and grounded theory were used to analyze interview data.

Results: The qualitative analysis identified four phases of coping with breast cancer. Women attributed positive effects of both PSIT groups and community-based support groups on coping and post-traumatic growth in the following areas: self-acceptance, body image, life purpose and meaning, spirituality, reassessment of values and priorities and interpersonal relationships. However, women participating in PSIT reported more positive effects on spiritual and existential development and coping than did community sample participants.

Conclusion: Because of its inherent focus on spiritual and existential development, PSIT may both appeal to and help some women to better adapt to breast cancer survivorship.


Breast cancer, cancer survivorship, coping, group, meaning, mindfulness, person-centered care, psychospiritual integrative therapy, quality of life, spiritual care, spirituality

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