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Mindfulness Beats Expressive-Supportive Tx with Stressed-Out Cancer Patients

15 Apr

Researchers from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, compared the effectiveness of 2 evidence-based group interventions to help stressed breast cancer survivors cope - mindfulness-based cancer recovery (MBCR) and classic, supportive-expressive group therapy (SET).
This multisite, randomized controlled trial assigned 271 distressed survivors of stage I - III breast cancer to one of the two group interventions or a 1-day stress management control condition.

MBCR focused on training in mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga, whereas SET focused on emotional expression and group support. Both intervention groups included 18 hours of professional contact.

Measures were collected at baseline and post-intervention by blinded assessors. Primary outcome measures were mood and diurnal salivary cortisol slopes. Secondary outcomes were stress symptoms, quality of life and social support.

Using linear mixed-effects models, in intent-to-treat analyses, cortisol slopes were maintained over time in both SET (P = .002) and MBCR (P = .011) groups, relative to the control group, whose cortisol slopes became flatter.
Women in MBCR improved more over time on stress symptoms, as compared with women in both the SET (P = .009) and control (P = .024) groups.

Per-protocol analyses showed greater improvements in the MBCR group in quality of life compared with the control group (P = .005) and in social support compared with the SET group (P = .012).

In this largest trial to date, MBCR was superior for improving a range of psychological outcomes for distressed survivors of breast cancer.  Both SET and MBCR also resulted in more normative diurnal cortisol profiles than the control condition.

Citation; Carlson LE, Doll R, Stephen J, Faris P, Tamagawa R, Drysdale E, Speca M.Randomized controlled trial of Mindfulness-based cancer recovery versus supportive expressive group therapy for distressed survivors of breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2013 Sep 1;31(25):3119-26. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2012.47.5210. Epub 2013 Aug 5. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award