Purpose To evaluate the effectiveness of two versions (personal or automated feedback) of a psychological Web-based self-help intervention targeting partners of cancer patients. The intervention was based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and self-compassion training. Participants' adherence and their satisfaction were also studied. Methods Two hundred three partners of patients with heterogeneous entities of cancer were randomized into three conditions: personal feedback (PF) (n = 67), automated feedback (AF) (n = 70), or waiting list (WL) control (n = 66). Participants completed measures at baseline (T0) and post-intervention (T1; 3 months after baseline) to assess psychological distress (HADS; primary outcome), positive mental health, caregiver strain, general health (secondary outcomes), posttraumatic growth, resilience, self-compassion, psychological flexibility, sense of mastery, and relational communication style (process measures). Participants in the two experimental conditions also completed these measures at follow-up (T2; 6 months after baseline). Results There was no significant difference in change in psychological distress, positive mental health, caregiver strain and general health from T0 to T1 for either of the experimental conditions compared with the WL-condition. However, when compared to a WL-condition, the PF-condition was effective in increasing psychological flexibility (effect size d = 0.49) and resilience (d = 0.12) and decreasing overprotection (d = 0.25), and the AF-condition was effective in reducing overprotection (d = 0.36) and improving protective buffering (d = 0.36). At follow-up, the PF-condition was more effective than the AF-condition for improving mental health (d = 0.36), psychological flexibility (d = 0.60), mastery (d = 0.48), and protective buffering (d = 0.24). Participants positively appreciated the intervention and 69% participants were adherent. Conclusion This study demonstrates that a Web-based intervention based on ACT and self-compassion training with automated or personal feedback does not seem to improve psychological distress; however, it may have the potential to support partners of cancer patients to cope with the difficult situation they are facing. The condition with personal feedback seemed to be more beneficial.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy