Medical Illness and Positive Life Change: Can Crisis Lead to Personal Transformation?
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
The idea that people experience positive change through their struggles with adversity is very old. However, only recently has this idea generated widespread empirical research attention.
People often claim to experience improved relationships with family and friends, a clearer sense of their own strengths and resilience, changed priorities about what is important in life, and various other positive changes after struggling with stressful or traumatic events. What are we to make of these claims? Can we determine whether perceptions of change reflect real, verifiable change—that is, is it possible for someone to believe that he or she has grown while still exhibiting the same old self-defeating thoughts and behaviors? Or, is the perception of change itself an important meaning reconstruction process? What factors influence personal growth, and what effect does growth have on physical and mental health?
This book examines these issues in depth and draws out implications for research and clinical practice. Because medical illness has been one of the primary contexts in which researchers have studied the phenomenon of positive life change, this book focuses on how positive life change might be fostered in the context of medical illness.
—Suzanne C. Lechner, Crystal L. Park, Annette L. Stanton, and Michael H. Antoni
I. Conceptual and Methodological Issues
- Overview of Theoretical Perspectives
—Crystal L. Park
- Assessing Positive Life Change: In Search of Meticulous Methods
—Howard Tennen and Glenn Affleck
- Challenges in Studying Positive Change After Adversity: Illustrations From Research on Breast Cancer
—Charles S. Carver, Suzanne C. Lechner, and Michael H. Antoni
II. Developmental Issues
- Benefit Finding Among Children and Adolescents With Diabetes
—Vicki S. Helgeson, Lindsey Lopez, and Constance Mennella
- Life Span Developmental Perspectives on Stress-Related Growth
—Carolyn M. Aldwin, Michael R. Levenson, and Linda Kelly
III. Factors That Influence Positive Life Change
- Lessons Learned About Benefit Finding Among Individuals With Cancer or HIV/AIDS
—Suzanne C. Lechner and Kathryn E. Weaver
- Illness Perceptions and Benefit Finding Among Individuals With Breast Cancer, Acoustic Neuroma, or Heart Disease
—Keith J. Petrie and Arden Corter
- Positive Life Change and the Social Context of Illness: An Expanded Social-Cognitive Processing Model
—Stephen J. Lepore and William D. Kernan
IV. Effects of Positive Life Change
- Biological Correlates: How Psychological Components of Benefit Finding May Lead to Physiological Benefits
—Julienne E. Bower, Elissa Epel, and Judith Tedlie Moskowitz
- Is Benefit Finding Good for Individuals With Chronic Disease?
—Sara B. Algoe and Annette L. Stanton
V. Clinical Applications
- Enhancing Positive Adaptation: Example Intervention During Treatment for Breast Cancer
—Michael H. Antoni, Charles S. Carver, and Suzanne C. Lechner
- The Clinician as Expert Companion
—Richard G. Tedeschi and Lawrence G. Calhoun
About the Editors
Crystal L. Park, PhD, is associate professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut. She studies coping with highly stressful events, including the roles of religious beliefs and religious coping, the phenomenon of stress-related growth, and the making of meaning from those stressful life events. She has recently been examining these issues in the context of cancer and congestive heart failure. She is currently examining mediators of the effects of spirituality on well-being in congestive heart failure patients and testing a meaning-making writing intervention for posttraumatic stress disorder. She is associate editor of Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Psychology and Health, and The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion.
Suzanne C. Lechner, PhD, is a member of the University of Miami (UM) Sylvester Cancer Center within the Biobehavioral Oncology and Cancer Control Program. She holds the title of scientist within the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute of UM Sylvester. She is a licensed clinical health psychologist and research assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at the UM Miller School. Dr. Lechner's clinical research program focuses on benefit finding and growth as well as on other indexes of positive adaptation to cancer. She is heavily involved in trials to test the efficacy of psychosocial interventions for persons living with breast cancer to ultimately attenuate the psychological burden of disease.
Michael H. Antoni, PhD, is professor of psychology and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami (UM) Miller School of Medicine. He leads the Biobehavioral Oncology and Cancer Epidemiology Program at the UM Sylvester Cancer Center and is a licensed psychologist in Florida. His research examines stress and stress management effects on quality of life, health, and biobehavioral mechanisms in persons diagnosed with viral infections and different cancers. Dr. Antoni is a fellow of the Society of Behavioral Medicine and is associate editor of the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine and Psychology and Health.
Annette L. Stanton, PhD, is professor of psychology and psychiatry/biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a senior research scientist at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and a member of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control Research in the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her research centers on specifying factors that promote psychological and physical health in individuals who confront health-related adversity, with a particular focus on coping with cancer. Dr. Stanton has been honored with the Senior Investigator Award from Division 38 (Health Psychology) of the American Psychological Association.