Adjuvant psychological therapy: definition, characteristics and techniques

Suffering from a medical illness involves, in addition to the physical symptoms of the illness, a series of psychological and emotional alterations that cannot be overlooked.

Thus, ideally, medical treatment should be applied in combination with psychological treatment focused on the treatment of these disorders.

Today we are going to talk about a very specific therapy, Adjuvant psychological therapy, aimed at treating cancer patients. Let’s see what it consists of and the techniques it uses. In addition, we will know how people adapt to illnesses.

    Basics of adjuvant psychological therapy

    Adjuvant psychological therapy (APT) was developed by Moorey and Greer (1989) and is intended for cancer patients. Its effectiveness has been demonstrated in several studies, providing both short and long term benefits.

    APT is based on Beck’s cognitive therapy (Beck, 1976) and research conducted with breast cancer patients. It is a therapy which includes psychoeducation and considers the active collaboration of the patient to be fundamental.

    The intervention with adjuvant psychological therapy is carried out in a series of 6 to 12 sessions of one hour (approximately). The main objective of therapy is to increase the well-being and the length of survival of the patient by reaching more specific goals. Some of them are:

    • Reduce physical symptoms (vomiting, nausea, …) and associated psychological symptoms (Anxiety depression, …).
    • Promote a spirit of struggle against disease.
    • Increase the feeling of personal control over one’s life.
    • develop adaptation strategies effective.

    Elements of TPA

    Adjuvant psychological therapy is based on the assumption that the psychological morbidity associated with cancer is determined, in addition to the actual consequences of the disease, by two fundamental variables:

    • The personal significance of the disease: How the patient perceives cancer and its implications.
    • Adaptation strategies of the patient: what he thinks and does to reduce the threat posed by the disease.

    These two variables are analyzed in therapy, by exploring the personal relationships of the person and the quality of the emotional support he receives from them.

    On the other hand, in adjuvant psychological therapy the quality of emotional support is analyzed that the patient receives from family, friends, doctors and nurses, which influences the two therapy variables discussed.

    Confrontation responses

    Patient coping responses are those psychological, social, and emotional mechanisms that a person uses to cope with the illness and try to recover from it.

    Two authors, Watson (1988) and Greer (1989) bring together five categories of psychological responses to cancer. Let’s take a look at them:

    1. Spirit of struggle

    It is about adopting an optimistic attitude towards the disease, being convinced to fight it and accept the diagnosis in its entirety.

    It is typical of people who view life’s obstacles as challenges rather than difficulties.

    2.powerlessness / hopelessness

    It is the adoption of a defeatist and pessimistic attitude towards the disease. The person has no hope of being cured.

    This implies that cancer flares up suddenly and continuously throughout life. of the patient, who cannot think of anything else. It is a dysfunctional mechanism that makes it difficult to cope with the disease and adhere to treatment.

    3. Anxious worry

    Here the anxiety is intense and persistent, and it is often accompanied by depressive symptoms. The patient actively seeks information about cancer but interprets it in a pessimistic and negative way. Each symptom of the disease is experienced in a very disturbing way and the patient always associates it with the exacerbation of the cancer.

    When the coping response is as follows, the patient usually resorts to alternative treatments to treat their condition.

      4. Fatalism (Stoic acceptance)

      The patient adopts a fatalistic attitude to the situation; he accepts the illness with resignation, sees it as something irremediable and careless. He takes no action to cope with the disease, Simply accept the diagnosis and do not seek more information or resources.

      5. Avoidance (denial)

      The person does not accept the diagnosis, deny it or even avoid using the word “cancer”. You can also acknowledge the diagnosis, but deny or downplay its severity, as well as the negative symptoms it produces.

      TPA techniques

      The psychological techniques included in adjuvant psychological therapy are very varied. Some of them are:

      • Cognitive techniques: Cognitive restructuring, automatic recording of thought, …
      • behavioral techniques: Relaxation, assignment of graduated tasks, …
      • Non-directive techniques: Feeling breakdown (helps express repressed feelings and emotions)

      When it comes to psychological disorders associated with cancer, one must take into account, among other things, the automatic negative thoughts (PA) underlying the disease. The goal will be to identify and modify them, and this will be done through cognitive techniques.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Watson, M.-Greer, S.-Young, J et al. (1988): Development of a questionnaire for measuring cancer adjustment. The MAC scale. Psychological Medicine, 18, 203-209.
      • Greer, S.-Moorey, S.-Watson, M. (1989): patient adaptation to cancer. Mental adjustment to cancer (MAC scale vs clinical classification. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 33, 373-377.
      • Greer, S. (1992). Adjuvant psychological therapy for women with breast cancer. Psychology Bulletin, 36, 71-83.

      Leave a Comment