University Of Tasmania

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Meaning and Purpose (MaP) therapy I: Therapeutic processes and themes in advanced cancer

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 14:06 authored by Carolyn LethborgCarolyn Lethborg, Kissane, DW, Schofield, P

Objective: Understanding the way therapy works is a complex undertaking. Historically, such enquiry has been dominated by “outcomes” leading to a lack of discourse about clinical processes. In the cancer setting, identifying clinical process can be even more complex because of the added challenges of an ongoing illness. This study investigated the therapeutic processes used in a meaning-based intervention developed for the advanced cancer setting: Meaning and Purpose therapy.

Method: Four sessions of therapy were delivered to 24 participants. Transcribed sessions (n = 96) of the intervention were analyzed by two independent researchers to describe participant themes, therapeutic processes, and patterns of change related to common points in the intervention.

Result: Although both suffering and meaning were present in all sessions, when we tracked the focus of the content across sessions, there was a clear progressive shift toward meaning-centered content for all participants. This finding is in spite of the fact that all participants had progressive disease and were living with ongoing challenges.

Significance of results: Processes such as focusing on meaning, reflecting a sense of significance, joining with participants to explore their unique meaning, and directing them away from a preoccupation with suffering were identified as clear influences of a shift toward a meaning-based focus. These processes offer a fresh focus on meaning and a buffer to the distress of advanced cancer.


Publication title

Palliative & Supportive Care








School of Health Sciences


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Palliative care; Health status (incl. wellbeing); Mental health