Group Program Helps Patients Cope with Terminal Illness. (Meaning Centered Psychotherapy)

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TUCSON ARIZ-Group therapy designed to help terminal cancer patients find meaning in their last days of ufe has a measurable impact on their levels of despair hopelessness and suicidal ideation Dr. William Breitbart reported at the annual meeting of the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine.

A pilot study of 25 patients showed that completing the 3-week program diminished feelings of hopelessness and the desire for hastened dath. There was also a trend toward less anxiety and depression and greater spiritual wellbeing, said Dr Breitbart chief of the psychiatry service at Memorial Stoan Kettering Hospital in New York City.

Many terminally ill patients experience a loss of meaning or purpose in their lives and wish that death would come sooner rather than later he said. In one study, the most common reasons patients gave for requesting assisted suicide were discomfort other than pain 79% loss of aignity, 53%, and the feeling that afe had lost its meaning, 47%, (N, Eng. J. 338[17]1193-1201.1998).

From findings like these and their own observations Dr. Breitbart and his colleagues developed the program, called meaning-centered psychotherapy, to counter 'end- of-life despair." their name for a syndrome whose components in. dude the desire for hastened death, loss of meaning or spiritual well-being, loss of dignity. hopelessness, and demoralization. These characteristics may exist independently of clinical depression. …