Coping Skills Practice and Symptom Change: A Secondary Analysis of a Pilot Telephone Symptom Management Intervention for Lung Cancer Patients and Their Family Caregivers

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Context: Little research has explored coping skills practice in relation to symptom outcomes in psychosocial interventions for cancer patients and their family caregivers. Objectives: To examine associations of coping skills practice to symptom change in a telephone symptom management (TSM) intervention delivered concurrently to lung cancer patients and their caregivers. Methods: This study was a secondary analysis of a randomized pilot trial. Data were examined from patient-caregiver dyads (n = 51 dyads) that were randomized to the TSM intervention. Guided by social cognitive theory, TSM involved four weekly sessions where dyads were taught coping skills including a mindfulness exercise, guided imagery, pursed lips breathing, cognitive restructuring, problem solving, emotion-focused coping, and assertive communication. Symptoms were assessed, including patients' and caregivers' psychological distress and patients' pain interference, fatigue interference, and distress related to breathlessness. Multiple regression analyses examined associations of coping skills practice during the intervention to symptoms at six weeks after the intervention. Results: For patients, greater practice of assertive communication was associated with less pain interference (β = −0.45, P = 0.02) and psychological distress (β = −0.36, P = 0.047); for caregivers, greater practice of guided imagery was associated with less psychological distress (β = −0.30, P = 0.01). Unexpectedly, for patients, greater practice of a mindfulness exercise was associated with higher pain (β = 0.47, P = 0.07) and fatigue interference (β = 0.49, P = 0.04); greater practice of problem solving was associated with higher distress related to breathlessness (β = 0.56, P = 0.01) and psychological distress (β = 0.36, P = 0.08). Conclusion: Findings suggest that the effectiveness of TSM may have been reduced by competing effects of certain coping skills. Future interventions should consider focusing on assertive communication training for patients and guided imagery for caregivers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1341-1349.e4
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018



  • Lung cancer
  • cognitive-behavioral
  • family caregivers
  • intervention components
  • psychosocial interventions
  • symptom management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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