Brief Metacognitive Therapy for Emotional Distress in Adult Cancer Survivors

Peter Fisher, Angela Bryne, louise Fairburn , Helen Ullmer, Gareth Abbey, Peter Salmon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background: Adult cancer survivors often experience substantial psychological morbidity following the completion of acute cancer treatment. Unfortunately, current psychological interventions are of limited efficacy. This study explored if metacognitive therapy (MCT); a brief transdiagnostic psychological intervention was potentially efficacious and could be delivered effectively to adult cancer survivors with psychological morbidity.

    Methods: An open trial with 3- and 6-month follow-up evaluated the treatment effects of MCT in 27 consecutively referred individuals to a clinical psychology health service specializing in psycho-oncology. Each participant received a maximum of six 1-hour sessions of MCT. Levels of anxiety, depression, fear of cancer recurrence, post-traumatic stress symptoms, health related quality of life, and metacognitive beliefs and processes were assessed using self-report questionnaires.

    Results: MCT was associated with statistically significant reductions across all outcome measures which were maintained through to 6-month follow-up. In the ITT sample on the primary treatment outcome measure, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale-Total, 59% of participants met recovery criteria at post-treatment and 52% at 6-month follow-up, respectively. No participants significantly deteriorated. In the completer sample (N = 20), 80% recovered at post-treatment and 70% at 6-month follow-up. MCT was acceptable to patients with approximately 75% of patients completing all treatment sessions.

    Conclusion: MCT, a brief transdiagnostic psychological intervention can be delivered effectively to a heterogenous group of cancer survivors with promising treatment effects. Examining the efficacy of brief MCT against the current gold standard psychological intervention would be a valuable advance toward improving the quality of life of cancer survivors.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number3389
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2019


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