Self-guided interventions may hold promise in allowing patients to engage with support or education as they need. A recent systematic review exploring the evidence for effective interventions such as workbooks, resource packs or online information identifies potentially efficient ways in managing psychological distress in people with cancer.
Cancer patients who have high levels of psychological distress do not always engage with support services or supportive interventions. There are a variety of reasons why this may be the case including stigma about seeking support or discomfort with raising emotional issues. Consequently, interventions that are self-guided including booklets, workbooks, online programs, resources or multimedia, are cost effective and can be used when the patient is ready without the need for clinician involvement.
A systematic literature review led by Dr Anna Ugalde from Deakin University, in collaboration with Cancer Council Victoria, assessed the evidence for self-guided interventions in reducing distress. Fifteen studies were identified, including three Australian studies, and overall there is a need to understand how self-guided interventions can be optimised. Potentially, interventions should be targeted at people who have a higher need for assistance. Although self-guided interventions allow people to access programs when they are ready, an important role of the administrator or clinician as support provider was identified.
The review highlights that this is a growing program of work requiring further research to establish the ideal delivery point, the optimal patient groups, intervention content, and mode of delivery. It is also recommended that any self-guided intervention is accompanied with options for further support, contact details for help, and monitoring, to ensure a user-friendly and safe resource.