Creativity, Optimism, Planning and Expert Information (COPE)


The COPE framework can be used to structure educational materials and manuals for use with family caregivers with chronic illness.

COPEDesigned to empower family caregivers by applying the principles of problem-solving training to problems and stressors experienced by the caregiver.

Creativity: In generating solutions and coping options to problems encountered
Optimism: Essential for emotional regulation and maintaining a sense of competence
Planning: Following an orderly approach to identifying and solving problems
Expert Information: Essential for understanding aspects of the condition and care needs for the care recipient, as well as for understanding personal emotions and needs as a caregiver


COPE teaches family caregivers how to develop plans for coping with medical and psychosocial stress associated with family caregiving, as well as working in concert with healthcare professionals.

Target Population

The COPE framework is geared to caregivers with chronic illness. It can be used to structure educational materials and manuals for and to guide interactions with family caregivers for other conditions. For example, McMillan et al. (2006) adapted COPE to the problems of family caregivers of cancer patients in hospice.

Research Outcomes

Intervention research with patients with cancer has found that patients who received problem-solving training in the COPE format with their significant others demonstrated significantly less distress over the course of a year than those who received the training without their significant others.

Clinical Approach References

Houts, P. S., Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., & Bucher, J. A. (1996). A problem-solving model of family caregiving for cancer patients. Patient Education and Counseling, 27, 63-73.

McMillan, S. C., Small, B. J., Weitzner, M., Schonwetter, R. S., Tittle, M., Moody, L., & Haley, W. E. (2006). Impact of coping skills intervention with family caregivers of hospice patients with cancer: A randomized clinical trial. Cancer, 106, 214-222.

Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., Felgoise, S. H., McClure, K. S., & Houts, P. S. (2003). Project Genesis: Assessing the efficacy of problem-solving therapy for distressed adult cancer patients. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 1036- 1048.

Nezu, A. M., Nezu, C. M., Friedman, S. H., Faddis, S., & Houts, P. S. (1998). Helping cancer patients cope: A problem-solving approach. Washington, DC: American Psychological Associat