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Efficacy of meaning-centered group psychotherapy for cancer survivors: a randomized controlled trial

  • N. van der Spek (a1) (a2), J. Vos (a3), C. F. van Uden-Kraan (a1), W. Breitbart (a4), P. Cuijpers (a1), K. Holtmaat (a1), B. I. Witte (a5), R. A. E. M. Tollenaar (a6) and I. M. Verdonck-de Leeuw (a1) (a7)...



The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of meaning-centered group psychotherapy for cancer survivors (MCGP-CS) to improve personal meaning, compared with supportive group psychotherapy (SGP) and care as usual (CAU).


A total of 170 cancer survivors were randomly assigned to one of the three study arms: MCGP-CS (n = 57); SGP (n = 56); CAU (n = 57). The primary outcome measure was the Personal Meaning Profile (PMP; total score). Secondary outcome measures were subscales of the PMP, psychological well-being (Scales of Psychological Well-being; SPWB), post-traumatic growth (Posttraumatic Growth Inventory), Mental Adjustment to Cancer (MAC), optimism (Life Orientation Test-Revised), hopelessness (Beck's Hopelessness Scale), psychological distress (anxiety and depression, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale; HADS) and quality of life (European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire; EORTC QLQ-C30). Outcome measures were assessed before randomization, post-intervention, and after 3 and 6 months of follow-up (FU).


Linear mixed model analyses (intention-to-treat) showed significant differences between MCGP-CS, SGP and CAU on the total PMP score, and on (sub)scales of the PMP, SPWB, MAC and HADS. Post-hoc analyses showed significantly stronger treatment effects of MCGP-CS compared with CAU on personal meaning (d = 0.81), goal-orientedness (d = 1.07), positive relations (d = 0.59), purpose in life (d = 0.69); fighting spirit (d = 0.61) (post-intervention) and helpless/hopeless (d = −0.87) (3 months FU); and distress (d = −0.6) and depression (d = −0.38) (6 months FU). Significantly stronger effects of MCGP-CS compared with SGP were found on personal growth (d = 0.57) (3 months FU) and environmental mastery (d = 0.66) (6 months FU).


MCGP-CS is an effective intervention for cancer survivors to improve personal meaning, psychological well-being and mental adjustment to cancer in the short term, and to reduce psychological distress in the long run.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: I. M. Verdonck-de Leeuw, Department of Clinical Psychology, VU University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Boechorststraat 1, room 2E-21, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. (Email:


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Efficacy of meaning-centered group psychotherapy for cancer survivors: a randomized controlled trial

  • N. van der Spek (a1) (a2), J. Vos (a3), C. F. van Uden-Kraan (a1), W. Breitbart (a4), P. Cuijpers (a1), K. Holtmaat (a1), B. I. Witte (a5), R. A. E. M. Tollenaar (a6) and I. M. Verdonck-de Leeuw (a1) (a7)...


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