National Survey of Psychologists' Training and Practice in Breaking Bad News: A Mixed Methods Study of the MUM Effect
Merker, Brad M
Hanson, William E
Poston, John M
Journal of clinical psychology in medical settings 2010 Sep; 17(3): 211-9
Research on breaking bad news has involved undergraduates, medical students, and physicians. However, to date, no studies have examined how, or whether, psychologists are trained to break bad news, as well as their current practice of breaking bad news. This mixed methods study explored the training and practice of 329 licensed psychologists/APA members in breaking bad news, using the MUM effect as a theoretical backdrop. Results suggest (1) psychologists are, as hypothesized, significantly more reluctant to break bad news than good news, (2) anxiety accounts for 30.6% of the variance in their reluctance, and (3) three-out-of-four psychologists break bad news "to some extent" or more, most typically related to a patient's psychological health, major Axis I diagnosis, or learning disability. Results also suggest most psychologists are not trained to break bad news, with only 2.7% being familiar with existing recommendations and guidelines; and anxiety, concerns for self/other, context, and norms play an important role in the bad news breaking process. Implications for theory, research, and practice are discussed and a training model is proposed.
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