ASSESSING SUPPORTIVE-EXPRESSIVE THERAPY GROUPS FOR WOMEN WITH BREAST CANCER USING FOCUS GROUP METHODS
 
Dharmawardene, M., Cumming, C., Dharmawardene, M., Handman, M., Hundleby, M., Lees, A. and Walker, C., Cross Cancer Institute and Kuiken, D., University of Alberta, Canada
 
Many women with breast cancer seek psychological counseling to help them cope with the emotional impact of this life-threatening disease. Research currently being conducted in the Department of Psychology at the Cross Cancer Institute is designed to evaluate a supportive-expressive group therapy program that also provides breast cancer patients with the opportunity to engage in expressive writing within personal journals. This project investigates patients' perceptions of how participation in the supportive-expressive group therapy program influences their attempts to cope with breast cancer. Patient feedback on the demands of group participation, as articulated in two focus group sessions, was analyzed to identify recurrent themes. Participant comments regarding group therapy were positive, reporting that the opportunity to share feelings and similar experiences with other breast cancer patients was very beneficial. Many participants saw the opportunity to write in personal journals as a positive way to articulate their emotions and concerns privately. These observations will be used to develop improvements in the design of the psycho-educational elements introduced within this program. Results emerging from this study will be of interest to other health care professionals concerned with the design and use of supportive-expressive interventions for patients facing chronic illness.