Support and training needs of cancer support group leaders: a review

Psychooncology. 2006 Aug;15(8):651-63. doi: 10.1002/pon.1009.


This review focuses on the support and training needs of cancer support group leaders. With an increasing popularity of support groups and growing evidence of the crucial role of group leaders in positive patient outcomes, there is an imperative to identify ways of promoting these outcomes and preventing leader burnout, an issue contributing to the demise of some support groups. Despite this, there is a paucity of research in this area. Available research data clearly illustrates that both professional and peer support group leaders recognise their need for better support, training and information. One study of health professionals identified a need for more advanced skills involved in group processes and specific issues such as dealing with the death of members. Specific leader behaviours, in particular active intervention in group interactions and supportive care, have also been associated with improved patient quality of life. To date, there is no clear evidence as to how best to achieve and support these effective group leader skills. While many cancer societies and other associations provide introductory training and information kits about 'how to start a support group,' no advanced training or support interventions are available. Further research is needed to provide an evidence base for group leader training and to evaluate the impact of such training on both leader and patient outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Education, Continuing
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / rehabilitation
  • Self-Help Groups
  • Social Support*