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Oncol Nurs Forum. 2004 Sep 17;31(5):997-1003. Print 2004 Sep.

A case study of telephone interpersonal counseling for women with breast cancer and their partners.

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  • 1College of Nursing, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA.



To present a case study of one woman with breast cancer and her partner to provide a firsthand account of an innovative telephone interpersonal counseling intervention.


Journal articles, book chapters, research data, and transcriptions of telephone counseling sessions.


Substantial evidence exists that face-to-face psychosocial interventions improve psychological adjustment and health-related quality of life for patients with cancer. Yet psychosocial interventions are not offered routinely, and many patients with cancer do not use face-to-face counseling mechanisms. The telephone may be an innovative and effective method of delivering interventions, and telephone-delivered interpersonal counseling may be an especially effective intervention for women with breast cancer and their partners.


Despite the fact that the telephone counseling occurred over a brief period of time, the woman and her partner in this case study reported substantial positive changes in their own distress (e.g., symptoms such as depression and anxiety) and the nature of their relationships with each other and their children. This is precisely the effect that would be predicted by interpersonal theories of psychological distress. These results were not atypical for other women and their partners who participated in the study.


Family members play a significant role in supporting women through the breast cancer experience; thus, nurses should assess the emotional distress of both partners during the course of treatment and, if needed, provide critical education and referral to psychosocial interventions. This woman and her partner clearly benefited from the intervention, resulting in improved symptom management and quality of life. Although this intervention requires additional training in the advanced practice nursing role, some techniques of the intervention can be used by all nurses, regardless of specialty training.

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