Study Suggests that Sometimes Hope Can Hurt

A GoodTherapy.org News Summary

In many situations involving medical news and prognoses that aren’t especially favorable, physicians and other health professionals may feel inclined to find some measure of hope to give their clients, in an effort to soften the blow or to provide some comfort. Clients themselves may also suspect that taking on a hopeful perspective can yield a more positive result for mental health and overall well-being; after all, people are reminded to have faith and preserve their hope throughout their lives, and may learn many valuable lessons by doing so. Yet in some instances, especially those involving difficult news or events, a state of hopelessness may be more beneficial than a focus on the potential of the issue to improve. In support of this idea, a study recently carried out at the University of Michigan has examined colostomy clients to determine whether hope-–or hopelessness—is better for well-being.

The study examined two groups of those who had recently undergone colostomies, having their colons removed and required to have bowel movements in pouches laying outside of the body. Some of the participants were candidates for a reversal surgery following a period of recovery, and were told that there was a chance of returning to normal bowel function. Other clients, however, were unable to have reversal surgery for any number of reasons, and so had no hope of ever returning to their previous state. The researchers found that those who had no hope for reversal reported being far happier and experienced greater well-being than those focused on the possibility of reversal at a later point.

The results point to the benefits of closure, suggest the researchers, and may help dictate how clients, whether facing physical or psychological issues, are treated by health professionals.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • JUSTIN

    JUSTIN

    November 10th, 2009 at 10:11 AM

    This is pretty confusing… I don’t quite understand how hopelessness would help a person who has to realize of something very negative about himself.

  • Henrigues

    Henrigues

    November 10th, 2009 at 10:33 AM

    Sometimes giving false hope is more damaging than breaking the news at once… it is better to say out the truth than to beat around the bush. the person will anyway get to know of it eventually…

  • nathan

    nathan

    November 10th, 2009 at 3:49 PM

    I have to agree with what Henrigues said… anyway the person will eventually know what problem he/she actually has and will have to face it…there is no reason to first say stuff that is around the actual idea and then indirectly say it… I feel it does more harm than good…thats because it gives the person more anxiousness and probably more reason to panic!

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