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Lanceley, A. Clark, J.M. (2013). Cancer in other Words? The Role of Metaphor in Emotion Disclosure in Cancer Patients. Brit. J. Psychother., 29(2):182-201.

(2013). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 29(2):182-201

Research

Cancer in other Words? The Role of Metaphor in Emotion Disclosure in Cancer Patients

Anne Lanceley, RGN, BA(Hons), Ph.D., PGDE and Jill Macleod Clark, DBE, RGN, BSc, Ph.D., FRCN

Despite evidence that nurses may play a crucial part in the wellbeing and recovery of cancer patients by facilitating their expression of feelings, research is lacking into the emotional content of nurse-patient talk and patients' use of language in emotion disclosure. In this study, 23 participating nurses in a variety of cancer care settings were asked to tape-record their conversations with patients during daily care. A data set of 60 nurse-patient conversations was collected. Individual expression of emotion by patients was identified through interpretive literary analysis within a framework of psychodynamic theory. Overall the picture of emotion disclosure was intense. In particular, patients' use of metaphor and figurative language to express their distress was powerful and pervasive. Participating nurses demonstrated responsive skills but their responses to figurative expression were often problematic.

The study provides evidence of unconscious processes in nurses' work and advocates career-long psychoanalytically informed supervision for nurses to better support them in challenging dialogue with cancer patients. Research is needed to evaluate the impact of supervision on communications with cancer patients to ensure patients have access to appropriate emotional supportive and care.

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