Purpose: This article explores the initiation and clinical issues of a long-term telephone support group serving a population of people with cancer who are homebound, isolated, or otherwise unable to travel to a central location. It explores social, interpersonal, and intrapsychic issues and themes, and compares telephone and face-to-face groups.
Description of program: Five years ago, Cancer Care, Inc. created its first and only ongoing telephone support group to respond to the needs of homebound people with cancer. Approximately 30 clients have been members of the group since its inception. The group meets weekly for 1 hour through a conference call set up by an outside telephone company operator. Membership is stable at 12 clients ranging in age from 44 to 86 years.
Findings: Anonymity appears to have facilitated bonding and increased self-disclosure. A high level of continuity in group members' participation was reached. Group members learned to become advocates for themselves and were successful in reaching out to others outside of the group.
Clinical implications: Due to changes in the economic climate and increased comfort with technology, the formation of support groups that meet and are facilitated through the telephone is a viable, and sometimes the only, practical option. A telephone support group connects a group of people who cannot normally be together, allows patients to use a resource to which they would not have access otherwise, and helps them transcend physical limitations.