The purpose of this review article is to assess the available scientific evidence on the effects of couples-based psychosocial interventions for couples when one spouse faces cancer. For the present study, we conducted an extensive search of three electronic databases using a comprehensive search strategy. The literature search identified 14 studies evaluating couples intervention where one partner is facing cancer. Among them, eight studies concluded there was overall improvement for patients and eight studies reported overall improvement for partners, whereas an additional five studies showed partial improvement for patients and three demonstrated partial improvements for partners. Taken in the aggregate, these studies illustrated partial effectiveness--most had some positive results--but with clear limitations in terms of how many aspects of psychosocial well-being changed, lack of equal effectiveness for both patients and their partners, or limited maintenance of improvements over time, a common concern with brief psychosocial interventions. Although couples-based interventions may facilitate emotional support and dyadic coping, how these psychosocial interventions should be delivered, at what point in the illness and treatment they should be delivered, and how long they should continue remain as future challenges.
© 2010 American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.