This post is based on an article submitted by the author of Rethinking prayer and health research: An exploratory Inquiry on prayer’s psychological dimension, Adrian Andreescu.
In this paper Andreescu (2011) tackles various issues pertaining to cancer research in the realm of transpersonal psychology. The problem of current cancer research is that we do not know for certain if psychosocial intervention is attributable to increased survival. Psychoneuroimmunology researchers are working diligently on finding key ingredients and conditions that might reveal pathways related to outcomes in cancer care. Andreescu (2011) illustrates the difficulty in the following way.
He writes that in order to overcome the medical prognosis regarding a cancer patient’s survival expectations, a cancer patient would need to change a homeostatic equilibrium via psycho emotional resources, an equilibrium already compromised by cancer, a cancer that in turn has successfully adapted to the internal conditions of its host (Andreescu, 2011). I believe Andreescu (2011) very appropriately draws a parallel between healing from cancer and playing professional sports. He writes that recovery from such a serious illness requires for a cancer patient to maximize all their resources, certainly testing the limits of human capabilities, just as world-class sports events do.
He criticizes current trials that examine the effects of psychotherapeutic interventions in cancer survival, as not adequately addressing relevant research designs. He makes an extraordinarily valuable point for three key elements relevant to psycho-oncological trials. These three key elements are the participant’s “…worldview, intentional normative dissociation (IND), and psychosomatic plasticity proneness (PPP) (Andreescu, 2011, p. 25). He hypothesizes that these factors might impact final results of a clinical trial, especially those trials designed to explore potential health benefits associated with a variety of spiritual paths. He briefly expands into explaining “… curing (clinical recovery from disease) is not considered a synonym for healing (how regained health is subjectively experienced by the former patient)” (Andreescu, 2011, p. 25).
He also argues that a spiritual practice brings together worldview, IND and PPP. Let’s briefly define these three key elements.
Worldview is defined by Andreescu (2011) as “… a set of beliefs and assumptions that describe reality and define the boundaries of what possibly can be done towards healing by the patient himself or herself with and without additional support (medical, spiritual, etc.) (p. 25).
Intentional Normative Dissociation (IND)
is described by Andreescu (2011) as a “… State of consciousness that is not induced organically, does not occur as part of a psychiatric disorder, and involves the alteration or separation of what are usually experienced as integrated mental processes lasting a limited amount of time (p. 27). He further explains that IND is “…accompanied by an increase in the cognitive and emotional functioning,” thus possibly responsible for “…inducing positive consequences on one’s consensus consciousness” (Andreescu, p.28). Interestingly enough, he elaborates that this consciousness is consistently influenced by the shared assumptions and cultural values of the society one lives in.
Psychosomatic Plasticity Proneness (PPP)
is the 3rd dimension Andreescu (2011) relates to the healing process. The author proposes PPP as a way to conceptualize “…personal psycho emotional content into bodily reality” (Andreescu, 2011). He argues that if this element is valid, then without PPP, psychosocial factors are unable to significantly alter the progression of disease, or for that matter play a role in regaining health.
Andreescu (2011) proposes that a spiritual practice brings together worldview, IND, and PPP in promoting health. But how?
Simply put, because of the intentional dimension and wide acceptance in cultures around the world, and due to social narratives, the sustained practice of any spiritual regimen might be able to piece into a single body the previously discussed elements of worldview, IND, and PPP as they relate to healing (Andreescu, 2011).
So what does that mean for the cancer patient?
While there is research indicating that psychosocial practices could prolong life in the oncological setting, the jury is still out. That is partly, because as Andreescu (2011) points out, that we have not developed and tested the relevant research protocol in the oncological setting as it pertains to spiritual practice and cancer. However, in the context described by Andreescu (2011), spiritual practice could certainly affect a cancer patient’s biopsychosocial factors and thus relate to disease outcome.
Not directly pertaining to spiritual practice, but loosely related to Andreescu’s (2011) paper, one research team is flat out calling for a discontinuation of research to answer this question (Coyne, Stefanek, & Palmer, 2007). This petition to inaction might be premature because other research teams found “…an RCT [Randomized controlled trial] accruing women with regional breast cancer found that a 1-year, 26-session psychologic intervention was associated with improved survival 11 years later” (Andersen et al., 2008, p. 3457).
More recently, Giese-Davis et al., (2010) showed that a decrease in the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D) scores resulted in median survival time of 53.6 months compared to 25.1 months for women with increasing CES-D scores (p. 413).
If spiritual practice could employ the same effects as the above mentioned studies on bioscychosocial factors, then it is reasonable to speculate that spiritual practice could certainly prolong life. Unfortunately, we just do not know and more research is needed that specifically addresses shortcomings in clinical trials as pointed out by Andreescu (2011) in his paper.
In the meantime, there is probably no harm following your familiar spiritual practice or even adopting a new spiritual practice if the goal of the cancer patient is to deal with cancer in the “big scheme of things.”
Adrian Andreescu’s (2011) paper “Rethinking prayer and health research: An exploratory inquiry on prayer’s psychological dimension” can be retrieved from the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies website by clicking on the link.
Writing an essay, paper, or report? Cite this story:
APA: W Absenger. (2012.06.14). Andreescu, A. (2011). Rethinking Prayer and Health Research [Web log post]. Retrieved from The Alternative Medicine Blog at http://amacf.org/2012/06/andreescu-a-2011-rethinking-prayer-and-health-research.html
MLA: Absenger, Werner. “Andreescu, A. (2011). Rethinking Prayer and Health Research.” The Alternative Medicine Blog. The Alternative Medicine Blog., 14 JUNE. 2012. Web. Insert your date of access here.
Andersen, B. L., Yang, H.-C., Farrar, W. B., Golden-Kreutz, D. M., Emery, C. F., Thornton, L. M., Young, D. C., et al. (2008). Psychologic intervention improves survival for breast cancer patients. Cancer, 113(12), 3450–3458. doi:10.1002/cncr.23969
Andreescu, A. (2011). Rethinking prayer and health research: An exploratory inquiry on prayer’s psychological dimension. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 23–47. Retrieved from http://www.transpersonalstudies.org/ImagesRepository/ijts/Downloads/Andreescu.pdf
Coyne, J. C., Stefanek, M., & Palmer, S. C. (2007). Psychotherapy and survival in cancer: The conflict between hope and evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 133(3), 367–394. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.133.3.367
Giese-Davis, J., Collie, K., Rancourt, K. M. S., Neri, E., Kraemer, H. C., & Spiegel, D. (2010). Decrease in Depression Symptoms Is Associated With Longer Survival in Patients With Metastatic Breast Cancer: A Secondary Analysis. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 29(4), 413–420. doi:10.1200/JCO.2010.28.4455
Image Credit: Rubens, P. P. (n.d.). Ignatius von Loyola Besessene und Kranke heilend. Retrieved from http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/view/search?q=A024370