This is an international, 3-site trial (Winnipeg Canada, MSKCC NYC, Perth Australia)
accruing 120 patients per site (120x3). The purpose of this study is to compare two types
of counseling for cancer patients: "Dignity Psychotherapy" and "Supportive Psychotherapy" as
well as "Standard Palliative Care." Many cancer patients seek counseling to help with the
emotional burden of their illnesses. Counseling often helps them cope with cancer by giving
them a place to express their feelings. We, the investigators at Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Cancer Center, have developed a type of counseling we call "Dignity Psychotherapy." It is
intended to help cancer patients maintain or enhance a sense of purpose, meaning, and
overall quality of life, despite having cancer. "Supportive Psychotherapy" is another type
of counseling intended to help patients feel more at ease and express and reflect on any
feelings or concerns they might have about their illness. Both of these types of counseling
will be compared to "Standard Palliative Care." We will look at how these types of
treatments affect patients' mood, outlook, and quality of life. We also want to see how the
type of treatment they receive affects their family members and significant others.
- To establish the efficacy of a new and unique individual, brief intervention we call
"Dignity Psychotherapy" in enhancing a sense of meaning, purpose and overall well-being
for patients with advanced, end stage cancer.
- To compare the effectiveness of "Dignity Psychotherapy" with "Supportive Psychotherapy"
and "Standard Palliative Care" in bolstering the patients' sense of meaning, purpose,
generativity, and overall sense of dignity and quality of life, while lessening
hopelessness, sense of being a burden to others, and suffering.
- To explore the impact "Dignity Psychotherapy" has on the bereavement experience of
those family members/significant others taking part in this arm of the study protocol.
- To compare the bereavement experience of bereaved family members/significant others
whose loved ones took part in any one of the three study conditions.
- The patient must be at least 18 years of age (because of the nature of "Dignity
Psychotherapy," which presumes a relatively advanced level of social and
- Have a terminal illness (Stage IV with a prognosis of less than 6 months, but
expected to live at least 7 to 10 days, i.e. the average length of the protocol)
- Must be able to identify a family member/significant other who agrees to participate
in the study (in the case of "Dignity Psychotherapy," this family member/significant
other will receive the generativity document)
- Be able to communicate with an English-speaking therapist (patients who are visually
impaired will be offered assistance with the consent forms and surveys)
- In the investigator's judgement, participant is cognitively able to provide valid,
- Significant psychiatric disturbance sufficient to preclude participation in a
psychotherapeutic intervention (e.g. acute, severe psychiatric symptoms which would
require individual treatment and medication management rather than a psychotherapy
- Active psychotic mental disorder (e.g. schizophrenia, acute mania), or marked
paranoid ideation. Patients who are on stable regimens of psychotropic medications
(e.g. antidepressants for clinical depression) or who are in concurrent individual or
group psychotherapy will not be excluded. This information regarding concurrent
psychiatric treatment will be collected and utilized as a co-variate in data
- Presence of a cognitive disturbance (i.e. delirium or dementia) sufficient to
preclude participation in psychotherapy, and/or data collection.
- Physical limitations or illness severity sufficient to preclude participation in