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Interventions for Couples Coping with Cancer-related Stress Karen Kayser, MSW, Ph.D. University of Louisville
Cancer Pole Ile-de-France Paris, France
6 May 2014
King Louis XVI – Namesake of Louisville, KY
Other Notable Things: Horse-Racing
Cancer in Kentucky
Patterns in Lung Cancer Death Rates by State, 2002-2006
Medical advances have changed our experience with cancer Living longer with cancer
Lower death rates Shorter hospital stays
Implications for Psychosocial Care More complicated caregiving responsibilities for families Complex medical centers to navigate Cost of treatment with devastating financial consequences More emphasis on the total patient
Growing Concern for Quality of Life “Cancer care today often provides state-of-the-
science biomedical treatment, but fails to address the psychological and social (psychosocial) problems associated with the illness.”
Institute of Medicine (IOM). 2008. Cancer Care for the whole patient: Meeting psychosocial health needs. Nancy E. Adler & Ann E.K. Page, eds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Overview of Presentation Why do we study couples and cancer?
What do we mean by dyadic coping? How do we screen and assess for relationship distress? How can we intervene to promote effective coping with cancer?
Why do we study couples and cancer?
Couples and Illness Early research focused on marital status and health Later research focused on quality of relationships and health Relationship distress related to physical health For married women, poor relationship related to mortality Marital distress and slower recovery from physical illness Ren, X.S. (1997). Marital status and quality of relationships: The impact on health perception. Social Science and Medicine, 44, 241-249. Hibbard, J.H. & Pope, C.R. (1993). The quality of social roles as predictors of morbidity and mortality. Social Science and Medicine, 36, 217-225.
Relationship distress has adverse effects on partners’ cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, and neurosensory
systems. Examples: Satisfaction with spouse support and cortisol response during conflict Simple act of holding hand helped women with cancer adapt to stressful situation
Heffner, K.L., Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K., Loving, T.J., Glaser, & Malarkey (2004). Spousal support satisfaction as a modifier of physiological responses to marital conflict in younger and older couples, Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 27 (3), 233-254. Lieber. L., Plumb, M.M., Gerstenzang, M.L., & Holland, J. (1976). The communication of affection between cancer patients and their spouses. Psychosomatic Medicine, 38, 379-389.
Interdependence of Partners’ Responses to Cancer Spouses report similar levels of stress in cancer
Hopelessness and emotional distress are transferred from one partner to the other Similarity in adjustment to cancer continues over time
Effect of illness-related Stress on Relationships Shift in focus from effect of relationship on health to effect of illness-related stress on relationships Form of dyadic stress Stressful event or encounter that concerns both partners either directly or indirectly Origin of stress is internal or outside the relationship
Hence, coping with the stress becomes dyadic coping
Coping as a Couple Patient: Coping to him and me is that we talk about the breast cancer and we deal with it. Husband: We share decisions; we share the research. One of us isn‘t running off saying, ‘This is what I’m doing. I don’t care it‘s my disease.’ It's shared. It's a we-disease.
Pierre & Marie Curie
Stress Communication Process and Dyadic Coping (Bodenmann) Communication of stress by Partner A
Perception of A’s stress by B
Partner A Perception and attribution of Partner B’s reaction by A
Partner B Interpretation of Partner A’s stress signs (decoding) by B
Types of Dyadic Coping Positive
Relational Coping Model Gender Roles Family Boundaries
Outcome: Relational & individual growth
Cultural Context Appraise stressor as a dyadic stress
Emotional response to stressor & response from partner
Screening for Relationship Distress How do we screen for relationship distress?
Screening Questions 1.
On a scale from 1 to 10 how happy are you in your relationship?
Do you and your partner have difficulty communicating?
Do your arguments ever lead to pushing, slapping or hitting?
Do relationship problems contribute to you or your partner feeling depressed, anxious, or lonely? Having more difficulty in dealing with your children? Feeling less able to deal with such stresses as work, financial problems or health problems? Drinking alcohol or using other drugs more than you should?
Rating of Distress Scoring of Questions
Unlikely to need couple therapy 5-7, significant communication problems, depression, anxiety, loneliness Relationship enhancement 1-4, physical aggression or relationship affects other areas Referral to couple therapist
How can we intervene to promote effective coping with cancer?
Partners in Coping Program Phase I: Design a couples-based intervention for breast cancer patients Series of single-subject designs with seven couples
Phase II: Evaluate the effectiveness of intervention on couple’s adjustment to breast cancer Randomized group design
Description of Program Couple meets privately with social worker
Social worker follows treatment manual Nine sessions are completed during the first year of diagnosis Each session lasts approximately one hour and is audiotaped
Topics of Sessions Building social support network Reallocating family tasks Caring for children Identifying dyadic coping patterns Learning new coping skills Facilitating supportive communication Enhancing intimacy and sexuality
Living with cancer
Structure of Sessions 1. Taking stock of previous week
2. Follow-up on assignments from previous session 3. Day’s Theme
4. Assignment and planning for next session
Assessment Becoming Acquainted with the Couple and their Social Support Network
Assessment Questions What is the most important change in your life as a couple since the diagnosis? What things are you handling best as a couple? What things are you handling less well? Rating of Coping as a Couple: Scale from 1 to 10
Is there any good for you as a couple that may have resulted from the illness?
Have you as a couple experienced any other major illness?
Their Support Network: Genogram Nuclear Family
Case Illustration: Adam and Susan’s Genogram
Support Network Whom have you told about illness? From whom do you get best help?
With whom have relations changed? Contact with other couples with breast cancer?
Genogram: Extended Support Network (outside family)
Session 1: How the Couple does their Work
Role Assignments & Negotiation Procedures Step 1 List things couple is currently doing to keep the family and household going.
Step 2 Record current allocation of tasks under columns headed by: Primary
Who is responsible for each task and who helps?
Step 4 What assignment changes would ideally make situation better?
Step 5 Reach agreement on what distribution would work effectively
Session 2: Enhancing Couple Supportive Communication
Instructions for 10-minute Conversation Step 1: Patient is “discloser;” partner is “helper” Step 2: Ask patient to think of topic she would like to discuss (something with personal meaning but is not a conflict with partner)
Step 3: Clinician sets up recorder and timer. Step 4: Start conversation with discloser telling helper what topic he/ she has chosen. Proceed with conversation in natural way.
Step 5: Couple talks for 10 minutes until clinician returns to room. Step 6: Clinician returns to the room and asks for general feedback: “How typical was this of conversations you normally have?” “Was there anything that sticks in your mind that was particularly helpful?” “. . Or that was particularly unhelpful?”
Tape-assisted Recall Step 7: Play back segment of tape and ask discloser to rate empathy on scale of 1 to 5 Step 8: Are there parts of the conversation that were particularly helpful or unhelpful?
Questions for Discloser: 1. How did you feel at that point? 2. In what way did you feel understood/not understood? 3. What was it about your partner’s response that made you feel understood/not understood? 4. How would you have liked him to respond to you at that point?
Questions for Helper: 1. How did you feel at that point?
2. What were you trying to do in making your response? 3. To what extent did you feel you understood what your partner was feeling or experiencing? 4. Was there anything that got in the way of your being able to understand your partner’s feelings at that point?
Role Reversal After reviewing the taped conversation with the patient as the discloser, reverse roles so that the partner becomes the discloser.
Future Directions for Couplefocused Interventions What are the key ingredients for intervention?
Are there couples for which the intervention will be more effective? How can we make our interventions adaptable to the real world?