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Neuropathological Diseases

ISSN Print: 2160-2468
ISSN Online: 2160-2476

Archives: Volume 1, 2012 to Volume 2, 2013

Neuropathological Diseases

DOI: 10.1615/NeuropatholDiseases.v1.i1.40
pages 57-69

A Relational Approach to the Family in Psycho-Oncology

Paolo Gritti
Department of Psychiatry, SUN , School of Medicine University of Naples, Italy


This review describes the family interpersonal dynamics due to the onset, the course and the outcome of cancer as well as a psychological treatment program for the family caregivers. The literature concerning the family environment of cancer patients highlights two issues: the first concerns the change in relationship patterns in the family as well as in the context of care, the second refers to the psychological and/or psychopathological consequences for the caregivers. These clinical features consist of adjustment disorders and post-traumatic syndromes often observed in the caregiver and in the patient's children. The structure itself of family relationships is negatively affected by the disease. Role conflicts, increasing communication deviances, social isolation, disorganized or enmeshed relationships are described. The knowledge of these processes suggests to schedule tailored psychological support programs for the patient's partner and the families. These interventions are aimed at improving the active collaboration between family, patient and medical team as well as at supporting the family during the critical phases of the disease and of cancer treatments. A treatment program, including a counselling module, called "Family Psychoncological Counseling" and a psychotherapeutic module, called "Phasic Family Therapy," is described.