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Lisa Maria Wu

Harnessing benefits of helping others: a randomized controlled trial testing expressive helping to address survivorship problems after hematopoietic stem cell transplant

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Christine Rini, Department of Health Behavior, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • ,
  • Jane Austin, Department of Psychology, William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey
  • ,
  • Lisa M Wu
  • Gary Winkel, Department of Oncological Sciences, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • ,
  • Heiddis Valdimarsdottir, Reykjavík University
  • ,
  • Annette L Stanton, University of California at Los Angeles
  • ,
  • Luis Isola, Department of Oncological Sciences, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • ,
  • Scott Rowley, John Theurer Cancer Center, Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack, New Jersey
  • ,
  • William H Redd, Department of Oncological Sciences, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

OBJECTIVE: Prior research supports the hypothesis that cancer survivors who help others face treatment experience a range of psychosocial and health-related benefits as a result of peer helping. This study investigates an expressive helping (EH) intervention designed to harness those benefits by targeting survivorship problems among cancer survivors treated with hematopoietic stem cell transplant. EH includes two components: (a) emotionally expressive writing (EW; writing one's deepest thoughts and feelings about the transplant experience in a series of brief, structured writing sessions) followed by (b) peer helping (PH; helping other people prepare for transplant by sharing one's own transplant experiences along with advice and encouragement through a written narrative).

METHOD: EH was compared with neutral writing (NW), EW (without PH), and PH (without EW) in a 4-arm randomized controlled trial in which survivors completed baseline measures, 4 structured writing exercises (with instructions depending on randomization), and postintervention measures including validated measures of general psychological distress, physical symptoms, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL).

RESULTS: Among survivors with moderate-severe survivorship problems, EH reduced distress (compared with NW and PH; ps < .05) and improved physical symptoms (compared with NW, PH, and EW; ps < .002) and HRQOL (compared with NW; p = .02).

CONCLUSIONS: Peer helping through writing benefits transplant survivors with moderate-severe survivorship problems, but only if they have first completed expressive writing.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Health Psychology
Pages (from-to)1541-51
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Adaptation, Psychological, Adult, Aged, Emotions, Female, Helping Behavior, Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation/psychology, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasms/physiopathology, Peer Group, Quality of Life, Stress, Psychological/prevention & control, Survival, Survivors/psychology, Thinking, Treatment Outcome, Writing

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