A Randomized Clinical Trial of a Supportive Versus a Skill-Based Couple-Focused Group Intervention for Breast Cancer Patients

Sharon L. Manne, Scott D. Siegel, Carolyn J. Heckman, Deborah A. Kashy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective: The aims of this study were to evaluate the efficacy of the 2 types of couple-focused group interventions on couples' psychological and relationship functioning, and to examine possible moderators for each intervention. Method: Three hundred and two women with early stage breast cancer who were recruited within 1 year of diagnosis and their spouses were randomly assigned to either an 8 session enhanced couple-focused group intervention (ECG) or a couples' support group (SG). Couples completed surveys at 4 time points: preintervention, 1 week postgroup, 6 months, and 1 year. Results: Analyses indicated that anxiety, depressive symptoms, and cancer-specific distress declined and positive wellbeing improved for couples enrolled in both ECG and SG. Thus, neither treatment was superior in terms of reduction of distress or improvements in positive well-being. Moderator effects indicated that, among patients reporting higher levels of cancer-specific preintervention distress, anxiety, depression, and well-being over the 1-year postintervention time period were significantly lower among SG couples than ECG couples. When patient cancer-specific preintervention distress was low, these 3 outcomes were more positive in ECG relative to SG. A similar pattern with regard to anxiety was illustrated when the moderator effects for perceived partner unsupportive behavior was examined, and a similar pattern was seen for anxiety and well-being for preintervention marital satisfaction. Conclusions: A couple-focused supportive group therapy may be more effective for distressed patients, whereas a structured, skills-based couples' group therapy may be more effective for less distressed patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)668-681
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • breast cancer
  • couple-focused interventions
  • couples
  • group therapy


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