Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 423–439 | Cite as

Enhancing coping skills for persons with cancer utilizing mastery enhancement: a pilot randomized clinical trial

  • Raymond C. Nairn
  • Thomas V. MerluzziEmail author


The purpose of this project was to develop a short-term, theory-based intervention for patients with self-reported limited self-efficacy to perform coping behaviors. Cancer patients with low coping self-efficacy were randomly assigned to a treatment (N = 66) or control condition (N = 68). The treatment, Mastery Enhancement Therapy, was based on self-regulation and self-efficacy theories. Measures of coping self-efficacy, functional status, depression, quality of life, and adjustment were administered at baseline, after session two, after the final (fourth) session, and at 3 months post-treatment. Control participants completed the measures at about the same time intervals. Treatment participants reported highly significant immediate post-treatment improvement in self-efficacy for coping compared to controls, although controls improved by 3 months post-treatment. However, treatment participants with lower levels of functional status benefited more than controls on depression and adjustment at follow-up. Mastery Enhancement Therapy is a time-limited treatment that increases coping efficacy and subsequently adjustment during active medical treatment, and appears to warrant a large-scale RCT with patients with below average coping self-efficacy and moderate to high symptoms.


Cancer Coping Brief intervention RCT Self-regulation Self-efficacy Oncology 



The authors would like to thank the patients who participated in this study as well as the physicians and staff of Michiana Hematology-Oncology, the Northern Indiana Cancer Research Consortium, and Memorial Hospital’s Regional Cancer Center, South Bend, Indiana.


This research was supported by a Grant from the National Cancer Institute (CA88603).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Raymond C. Nairn and Thomas V. Merluzzi declared that they do not have any conflicts of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committees and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NoviUSA
  2. 2.University of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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