After watching two interesting lectures from psychologist Dr. Annette Stanton at UCLA, interesting thoughts and themes emerged as I analyzed the content from a clinical perspective. The lecture topics were 1. Women and Breast cancer, and 2. Women and health behaviors (sleep and exercise).
I was struck that in the world of psychology, women are considered “survivors” from the time that they are diagnosed with breast cancer. I thought deeply about the psychological implications of being identified as a “breast cancer survivor” from the moment of diagnosis. Two repercussions came to mind, one positive and one negative. On the positive end, a woman may feel liberated and encouraged that she has survived breast cancer (at least at that point in time). On the potentially negative end, a woman who identifies as a “survivor of breast cancer” may develop a false sense of security. If this false sense of security persists, treatment adherence may possibly decline. I was certainly surprised that this label is given to women the moment that they are diagnosed.
There are several interesting implications involving the BRCA gene testing. A renown medical professional recommended that all women be tested for the BRCA gene. From a psychological perspective, an individual may be given a false sense of security if with a negative BRCA gene result. As in the case of the “breast cancer survivor” label, this could potentially give women a false feeling of protection which may result in fewer screening measures.
Regarding the subtopic of benefit finding as an intervention, psychotherapeutic interventions could be targeted at increasing benefit finding among breast cancer survivors. Benefit finding itself can be related to several therapeutic modalities. For example, the cognitive model could be applied in the case of the classic reframing technique. In working to increase benefit finding in clients, reframing their thoughts into overall benefits could potentially be useful in increasing overall benefit finding from breast cancer.
With regards to cognitive reframing, I found the verbal reframing of “exercise” to be thought-provoking since many people have a negative association with the term “exercise.” It makes sense that reframing “exercise” into “physical activity” or “recess” may provoke more individuals to want to stay active. At Kaiser, a cognitive-behavioral therapy group for healthy living incorporates “homework” activities of “exercise.” Currently it is not framed as “physical activity” and suspect that framing it this way could increase compliance.