Harnessing benefits of helping others: A randomized controlled trial testing expressive helping to address survivorship problems after hematopoietic stem cell transplant

Christine Rini*, Jane Austin, Lisa M. Wu, Gary Winkel, Heiddis Valdimarsdottir, Annette L. Stanton, Luis Isola, Scott Rowley, William H. Redd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Prior research supports the hypothesis that cancer survivors who help others face treatment experience a range of psychosocial and health-related benefits as a result of peer helping. This study investigates an expressive helping (EH) intervention designed to harness those benefits by targeting survivorship problems among cancer survivors treated with hematopoietic stem cell transplant. EH includes two components: (a) emotionally expressive writing (EW; writing one's deepest thoughts and feelings about the transplant experience in a series of brief, structured writing sessions) followed by (b) peer helping (PH; helping other people prepare for transplant by sharing one's own transplant experiences along with advice and encouragement through a written narrative). Method: EH was compared with neutral writing (NW), EW (without PH), and PH (without EW) in a 4-arm randomized controlled trial in which survivors completed baseline measures, 4 structured writing exercises (with instructions depending on randomization), and postintervention measures including validated measures of general psychological distress, physical symptoms, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL). Results: Among survivors with moderate-severe survivorship problems, EH reduced distress (compared with NW and PH; ps < .05) and improved physical symptoms (compared with NW, PH, and EW; ps < .002) and HRQOL (compared with NW; p = .02). Conclusions: Peer helping through writing benefits transplant survivors with moderate-severe survivorship problems, but only if they have first completed expressive writing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1541-1551
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Psychology
Volume33
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Cancer survivorship
  • Emotionally expressive writing
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplant
  • Intervention
  • Peer helping
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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