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Joining a healing community for cancer: Who and why?

By Carol E. Sutherland and Michael S. Goldstein

Abstract

This paper provides a description and evaluation of selected aspects of The Wellness Community (TWC), a healing community for people with cancer in Santa Monica, California. Based upon participant observation, TWC's philosophy and program are described. The ways in which charismatic leadership is used to create a sense of 'healing charisma' is specified. Interviews were conducted at 3 points over a 10 month period with 65 individuals who initiated contact with TWC. Thirty-seven eventually became participants at TWC, while the 28 who did not were used as a comparison group. Participants were healthier, more oriented toward self-care and less satisfied with their existing social support networks. The findings indicate the role, and limitations, of healing communities for people with chronic physical illness.cancer support groups healing community social support

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