Supporting whānau through child cancer : an evaluation of the child cancer counselling network : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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Purpose Child cancer can be considered to be a chronic traumatic event that challenges the functioning of the entire family unit. Whilst families may be well supported by medical teams and support services in hospital, there is often a lack of appropriate psychological support available in the community for those who prefer external support or whose child is not undergoing active treatment. In addition, research investigating the impact of counselling on child cancer parents is scarce. The purpose of this study was to contribute to an evaluation of the innovative Child Cancer Counselling Network (CCCN). In partnership with the Child Cancer Foundation, the CCCN provides free specialised counselling support across Aotearoa New Zealand either in-person or online, available to whānau at any point during their cancer journey. Method To evaluate the CCCN from parents’ perspectives, seven semi-structured interviews were carried out with child cancer mothers who had accessed the counselling. The resulting qualitative data was thematically analysed. Results Five major themes were found. ‘The Educated Outsider’ and ‘A Safe Space’, described qualities of ideal social support for child cancer families and what counselling was able to provide that their social networks and treatment centre could not. ‘Breaking Stigmas’ and ‘Optimising Access’ outlined ways that access to support services could be improved, including what did and didn’t work about the CCCN approach for the participants. Finally, Future Focus Areas identified potential improvements including Māori support, palliative support and investigations into other child conditions that don’t receive the same support as child cancer. Conclusion The qualitative accounts of participants illustrated a range of benefits they experienced from access to the CCCN service. Potential areas for development include enhanced palliative focus and ensuring best practice support for Māori. Provision of a short-term, flexible delivery, specialised counselling support service for child cancer families appears valuable to address gaps in support and shows potential as a translatable model for supporting other child conditions.
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child cancer, paediatric oncology, chronic illness, counselling, psychosocial support, psychology, parents, caregiving, family intervention, qualitative, New Zealand