Transition from diagnosis to treatment: changes in cancer patients' constructions of physicians and self during the early phase of treatment



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Texas Tech University


Personal construct psychology offers a unique perspective on helping relationships through its collaborative approach to the therapeutic relationship. The health care system, including oncology, is undergoing a major shift from the traditional paternalistic model to a more patient-centered approach. Health psychologists can play a major role in this shift by offering insights and research concerning patient perspectives of the physician-patient relationship. There is an abundance of literature regarding physician communication skills for improving the effectiveness of the physician-patient relationship in oncology; however, there is much less information regarding what patients value when it comes to this relationship. This study contributes to the existing yet sparse literature by examining newly diagnosed cancer patients’ initial views of themselves and their oncologists during the early transition from diagnosis to treatment. Results indicate that the cancer patients in this study most often offered constructs in categories that represented interpersonal connection. Shortly after diagnosis, these were Concern/Emotional Warmth (25.33%), Personal (16.00%), and Calming/Relaxing and Thorough/Conscientious (12.67%). This did not change significantly from initial diagnosis to early treatment. These results remained consistent when examining constructs considered most meaningful in describing the oncologist and those considered to be most meaningful to the self. This suggests that cancer patients are judging oncologists using constructs with which they are familiar and which reflect concern and other personal qualities. Possible patterns did emerge regarding level of distress/hope and use of construct categories which should be cross-validated with a larger sample.



Cancer, Physician-patient relationship, Distress