Intimate Relationships and Chronic Illness: A literature review for counsellors and couple therapists

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Rebecca M. Gray, PhD, Relationships Australia New South Wales; Toby Newton-John, PhD, University of Technology Sydney; Jamie Lee, PhD; Claire Ralfs, PhD, Relationships Australia South Australia 



Emerging evidence suggests a bi-directional dynamic between chronic illness and intimate relationships. Moreover, the quality of this relationship affects the capacity of the affected person to manage their illness. Literature directed towards health professionals encourages them to incorporate interventions which account for such factors, so that support service users can better manage their illness and treatment program. There are, however, scarce reports to inform counsellors and couple therapists working with this presentation. In this paper, we outline findings from a scoping literature review which explored published reports on the interplay between chronic illness and relationships; how best to develop and evaluate programs which focus on this intersection; and the potential role of counsellors and couple therapists in supporting clients affected by chronic illness.

Author Note: This project received a Health Access Grant from Medtronic Philanthropy. We gratefully acknowledge this support

Keywords: Counselling, couple therapy, chronic physical illness, intimate relationships, holistic care


Address for correspondence:
Dr Rebecca Gray
Practice Leader  
Research & Evaluation
Relationships Australia NSW
Level 1, 68 Waterloo Road
Macquarie Park NSW 2113
Email: rebeccag@ransw.org.au