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Communicate & Connect: Gender- and Strength-based Psychosocial Support for Couples Facing Cancer

Courtney Bitz, MSW, LCSW, and Ellen Polamero, MSW, LCSW, ACHP-SW, OSW-C
Recorded on August 24, 2016

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About the Webinar

When an individual is diagnosed with cancer there is an increase in emotional distress that may impact many aspects of their life, including relationships. Even the most supportive partners can have a difficult time knowing what to say, what kind of comfort to provide, and where to find help. Though every individual is unique, men and women often respond differently during times of stress. This is where men and women can learn from and build upon the strengths of their partner and work together as a team. There are specific and practical behaviors learned from scientific research that can help men and women best support one another during times of stress. For many couples the cancer experience can be an opportunity to grow closer to one another.

This webinar will also address how to apply the gender strengths based framework and adapt current research that is primarily based on opposite sex relationships to same-sex couples. We will explore how clinicians can directly address issues of gender with same sex couples in order to work with the unique relationship at hand.

Learning Objectives

At the end of the presentation, the participant will be able to:

  • Identify specific ways in which gender impacts distress and coping
  • Identify specific behaviors identified in scientific research that engage couples to work together as a team
  • Utilize a strength-based approach to coaching couples in effective methods of communication and problem solving while undergoing treatment for cancer
  • Demonstrate an understanding regarding how work with same sex couples within the strength-based model


AOSW-August-Webinar_Photo_Bitz_small.jpgCourtney Bitz, MSW, LCSW, has been a clinical social worker at City of Hope in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine for the past seven years. She has been in the field of psycho-oncology for over 13 and specializes in addressing the psychosocial needs of cancer patients and their families. Courtney has extensive experience working with couples who are facing a cancer diagnosis.

Courtney spearheaded the development of the Women’s Health Center Partners Clinic that provides gender and strength-based education and support to patients and their partners shortly after an initial diagnosis of cancer. To our knowledge this is the only program of its kind in the country. The Partner’s Clinic launched in 2011 and due to its success the clinic was expanded in 2013. She currently leads the Couples Coping with Cancer Together Program at City of Hope.

Courtney has published in Psycho-Oncology and presented her work with cancer patients and their partners at several national professional conferences including The American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS) and AOSW. She was an invited speaker at the Southern California Women’s Health Care Conference, and Susan G. Komen, Los Angeles County Annual Conference.

AOSW-August-Webinar_Photo_Polamero_small.jpgEllen Polamero, MSW, LCSW, ACHP-SW, OSW-C, has been a clinical social worker at City of Hope in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine for the past six years. Prior to her work in oncology, she worked with children and families in child welfare. Ellen’s experience in the medical oncology setting as well as in her prior child welfare setting has focused extensively on helping to support families and healthy relationships. Her work at City of Hope has especially focused on the unique needs of family caregivers, including spouses, during cancer treatment. She has developed and facilitated several psychoeducational groups and classes for caregivers at City of Hope.

Ellen recently joined the Couples Coping with Cancer Together Program at City of Hope, both as a clinician and in program development. She has presented at The American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS) and CancerCon on couples specific issues.

Continuing Education Credits

Level - Intermediate
Participants will earn 2.0 CE credits upon successful completion of a quiz and a post-webinar evaluation.