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“Finding a New Normal:” Using Recreation Therapy to Improve the Well-Being of Women with Breast Cancer

Diane G. Groff, Ph.D., LRT/CTRS; Claudio Battaglini, Ph.D.; Cari Sipe, LRT/CTRS; Jeffery Peppercorn, M.D., MPH; Michael Anderson, B.S., and Anthony C. Hackney, Ph.D.

Annual in Therapeutic Recreation, 18, 40-52, 2010.

For a PDF version of the complete paper, click here.


Women with breast cancer face numerous physical and psychosocial challenges during and post cancer treatment that may decrease functioning and reduce overall well-being. Interventions that afford opportunities to transcend negative life experiences are needed but frequently not provided due to lack of post-treatment services provided by healthcare systems. HeartMath® and other forms of biofeedback offer efficacious interventions that recreation therapists can easily be trained to provide. These tools provide a promising way to increase coping skills, decrease stress, and improve immune functioning by increasing heart rate coherence (HRC). This article will review the literature and illustrate the outcomes of a case series conducted with female breast cancer survivors. A paired samples t-test revealed a significant increase in high HRC from baseline to posttest. This significant increase was established after the first HeartMath® session and sustained over the 6-week intervention. Discussion and implications of these findings are presented.