Previous research on mindfulness and compassion has indicated that training programmes based on these modalities (contemplative practices) have been effective with various clinical populations, including somatic patients (Carlson, 2012) to differentiate between them and psychological patients. The current PhD research programme aimed to develop and evaluate an evidence-based psychological management programme for cancer patients and survivors in stages 0-IIIC. The programme primarily incorporates the main conceptualisations and practices of Compassionate Mind Training (CMT), which itself is based on Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT), or is considered to be the tools used in CFT (Gilbert, 2010a).
Overall specific aims included:
i. The investigation of a new cancer intervention based on contemplative approaches – mainly compassion-based approaches;
ii. Development of a comprehensive psychological training programme for cancer patients and survivors;
With specific objectives to:
i. Test and implement compassion-based interventions (CBIs) as a means to greater (dispositional) mindfulness, meaning of life, satisfaction with life, emotion regulation, attachment styles, and post-traumatic growth (PTG) improvement (by facilitating coping with a range of stressors associated with cancer and developing capacities for self-regulation and self-soothing);
ii. Determine whether there were differences between the level of mindfulness, PTG, meaning of life, satisfaction with life, emotion regulation, attachment styles – before
taking part in a compassion-based programme, after the last session, and two months later (follow-up).
To meet these aims and objectives, the PhD comprised these studies:
• Study 1 (pilot) with a non-clinical population (one group), included using qualitative measures;
• Study 2 (initial study) with a clinical population (one group), included using qualitative and quantitative measures (mixed methods);
• Study 3 (main study) with a clinical population, (two groups), included using qualitative and quantitative measures (mixed methods).
The findings were divided into quantitative and qualitative results (in appropriate chapters). Based on the described benefits and recommendations it can be concluded that there was a value of CforC being delivered to cancer patients and survivors similar to the experiences of the non-clinical group. Additionally, both cancer patients and survivors reported changes in the way of approaching oneself (e.g. being able to relax and be more self-compassionate) and various aspects one’s experience (e.g. having more understanding), including differences in relating to one’s body, pain, and other people.
Quantitative analyses revealed improvements in satisfaction in life, mindfulness, perceived stress, meaning of life, emotion regulation, attachment, and partially in post-traumatic growth. These results show promising avenues for compassion-based interventions being used with cancer patients and survivors. The results show an important potential of the CforC in its ability not to only to increase a compassionate attitude and behaviour but also instances of mindfulness. Thus, another important benefit of mindfulness is the fact that mindfulness can lead to meaning and positive reappraisal. CforC training and CBIs can also trigger processes
associated with safeness, including feeling safer in relationships and being able to feel a bond with more fellow beings. CforC may serve as a vehicle to evaluate current relationships, their patterns and dynamics in a way that ultimately allows individuals to feel more connected to others. CforC can therefore serve as a catalyst for allostasis and provide patients and survivors with cognitive, emotional and relational benefits. Furthermore, practical recommendations have been given as to how to teach and supervise CforC.
Another area that still needs to be investigated further is how CforC can help with managing pain as self-compassion may be important in pain adjustment. Further studies should be employed, including running confirmatory studies with larger samples, in order to replicate all of the results mentioned and explain the processes behind them and closely look at all the practices employed in CforC as it is not yet clear what specific factors influence all of the aforementioned changes.