Helper therapy principle may not be helpful for breast cancer
the ONA take:
People with breast cancer who join Internet support groups (ISGs) benefit from receiving social support; however, distressed survivors or breast cancer may not benefit from helping others, as the helper therapy principle would suggest.
Researchers at the Department of Public Health, Temple, University (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), conducted a randomized controlled trial to test the mental health benefits of providing support to others. The trial compared the efficacy of standard ISG (S-ISG) and an enhanced prosocial ISG (P-ISG).
A study population of 184 women with a diagnosis of nonmetastatic breast cancer within the past 36 months who reported elevated anxiety or depression were assigned to either the S-ISG or P-ISG condition. Both conditions included six professionally facilitated live chat sessions and access to an asynchronous discussion board; the P-ISG condition included structured opportunities to provide support to others as well.
Results were measured via 1-month pretest and posttest assessments. Participants in the P-ISG condition exhibited more supportive behaviors, posted more other-focused and fewer self-focused messages, and expressed less negative emotion compared with those of participants in the S-ISG condition.
However, participants in the P-ISG condition had a higher level of depression and anxiety symptoms after the intervention. The results suggest that the P-ISG may have inadvertently inhibited the women from expressing their needs openly, and therefore they did not derive the full benefits of participating in a support group.
Distressed survivors or breast cancer may not benefit from helping others.
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