Evaluating a couple communication skills training (CCST) intervention for advanced cancer: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial.
BACKGROUND: For patients and their intimate partners, advanced cancer poses significant challenges that can negatively impact both individuals and their relationship. Prior studies have found evidence that couple-based communication skills interventions can to be beneficial for patients and partners. However, these studies have been limited by reliance on in-person treatment delivery and have not targeted couples at high risk for poor outcomes. This study tests the efficacy of a Couples Communication Skills Training (CCST) intervention delivered via videoconference for couples reporting high levels of holding back from discussing cancer-related concerns, a variable associated with poorer psychological and relationship functioning. METHODS: This RCT is designed to evaluate the efficacy of CCST in improving patient and partner relationship functioning (primary outcome). Secondary outcomes include patient and partner psychological functioning and patient symptoms and health care use. We also examine the role of objective and self-reported communication behaviors as mediators of treatment effects. Two hundred thirty patients with advanced lung, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and breast cancer and their partners will be randomized to CCST or an education control intervention. Participants in both conditions complete self-reported outcome measures at baseline, mid-treatment, post-treatment, and 3 months post-treatment. Objective measures of communication are derived from video-recorded couple conversations collected at baseline and post-treatment. An implementation-related process evaluation (assessing implementation outcomes and potential barriers to/facilitators of implementation) will be conducted to inform future efforts to implement CCST in real-world settings. DISCUSSION: This trial can yield important new knowledge about effective ways to improve patient and partner adjustment to advanced cancer. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study trial is registered at clinicaltrials.gov (Trial # NCT04590885); registration date: October 19, 2020.
Porter, LS; Ramos, K; Baucom, DH; Steinhauser, K; Erkanli, A; Strauman, TJ; Zafar, SY; Check, DK; Leo, K; Liu, E; Keefe, FJ
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