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Surviving Cancer Competently

At The Surviving Cancer Competently Workshop

Candida Batista, Marie Barnett, and Karen Turi

In October, the three of us attended a training workshop on an ​intervention for caregivers of children newly diagnosed with cancer. The training, sponsored by the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress, was held at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware. The Surviving Cancer Competently Intervention Program – Newly Diagnosed (SCCIP-ND) is a three session, skill-based intervention that can promote individual and family coping, healthy family adjustment, competence and resilience.

Additionally, it is aimed at preventing cancer-related post-traumatic stress symptoms in family members. As members of The Valerie Fund Psychosocial & Palliative Care Program at Columbia we felt this would help us empower families to take better care of themselves while caring for their sick child.

The Benefits of Surviving Cancer Competently

This evidence-based intervention is an integrated cognitive behavioral and family systems approach developed by a multidisciplinary team in the Division of Oncology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia​ ​and caregivers of children with cancer. Research has shown that when a caregiver learns to cope more effectively, they can better help their sick child and other family members, as well as recover as a whole after treatment.

A Road Map For Surviving Cancer Competently

In this intervention, the sessions are cumulative and help caregivers understand the impact of cancer on their family system. They also discuss beliefs about how their family copes, and learn about and practice coping skills to use during and after treatment. It culminates with an exploration of the family’s current and future journey with cancer. Each session includes ​a brief video clip as well as interactive worksheets. The final session allows caregivers to create a “family survival road map,” to help navigate the most stressful aspects of treatment. They can continue to use the road map after therapy is completed.

The training workshop was led by skilled clinicians who routinely provide this intervention and believe in its utility and benefits. Research was presented, training videos discussed, and role-plays conducted to master and explore the techniques. Additionally, the workshop was attended by a mother who had greatly benefited from the training herself and provided feedback and personal insights.

Acknowledging the impact of a new diagnosis of cancer on the caregivers of a child, the Psychosocial team plans to integrate the compassionate intervention of Surviving Cancer Competently within our Division with the goal of providing enhanced support and counseling services to patient families.

Candida Batista, LCSW-R,  and Karen Turi, LCSW are both social workers in the Division of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology & Stem Cell Transplantation at Columbia University Medical Center. Marie Barnett, PhD is a Psychology Fellow in the Division. Their attendance at the SCCIP-ND workshop was made possible by a generous grant from the Moppie’s Love Foundation. Make a donation today to support their continuing work in this area.

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