Group psychotherapy reduces illness intrusiveness in systemic lupus erythematosus.
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OBJECTIVE: We investigated whether brief supportive-expressive group psychotherapy might reduce illness-induced interference with valued activities and interests (i.e., illness intrusiveness) among women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in relation to 3 life domains: (1) relationships and personal development (family relationships, other social relationships, self-expression), (2) intimacy (relationship with spouse, sex life), and/or (3) instrumental life (work, finances, active recreation). METHODS: Women with SLE recruited from 9 rheumatology centers were randomly assigned to receive either usual care (n = 66) or a 12 week brief supportive-expressive group psychotherapy followed by 3 monthly booster sessions (n = 58). Standard instruments assessed disease activity and damage, illness intrusiveness, and psychological distress at 4 measurement occasions: (1) pretreatment, (2) posttreatment, (3) 6 month followup, and (4) 12 month followup. RESULTS: Analysis of covariance, controlling for disease activity and household income, indicated that women who received brief supportive-expressive group psychotherapy experienced significant reductions in illness intrusiveness for 2 of 3 domains: (1) relationships and personal development and (2) intimacy. Benefits were evident at 6 and 12 month followups. CONCLUSION: Brief supportive-expressive group psychotherapy facilitates adaptation to SLE by assisting women in reducing illness-induced disruptions into important domains of life experience.