Laurel Northouse, PhD, RN, FAAN

Laurel Northouse

Professor Emerita
Room 2160 NURS1

University of Michigan School of Nursing
400 North Ingalls Building
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5482

Telephone: (734) 763-0002
Fax: (734) 936-5525


  • Cancer
  • Caregivers
  • Intervention studies to improve outcomes in cancer patients and family members
  • Translation and dissemination of evidence-based programs of care in oncology
  • Quality of life: predictors of emotional and physical well-being in cancer survivors and their family caregivers

Dr. Northouse is a nurse scientist in the field of cancer research. She has conducted numerous studies that describe the effect of cancer on the family, and developed a model to identify patients and family members at higher risk of developing emotional distress following a diagnosis of cancer.

Over the past 20 years, Dr. Northouse developed and tested a family-based program of care called FOCUS (Family involvement, Optimistic attitude, Coping effectiveness, Uncertainty reduction, Symptom management) for cancer patients and their family caregivers. The program addresses ways to help patients and caregivers communicate effectively, maintain hope, use active coping strategies, obtain information, and manage symptom distress. The FOCUS Program was originally delivered by nurses using a combination of face-to-face home visits and telephone calls. A tailored, web-based version of the FOCUS Program was also developed to help cancer patients and their family caregivers communicate more effectively while managing the demands of cancer. More recently, Northouse and colleagues conducted a series of implementation studies to determine the effect of the FOCUS Program on patient and caregiver outcomes when implemented in various Cancer Support Community affiliates in the U.S. (Michigan, Ohio, California) by agency social workers and family therapists. Currently, Northouse is collaborating with palliative care researchers in Europe who are comparing outcomes associated with an enhanced nurse-delivered program (FOCUS+) versus an expanded web-delivered program (iFOCUS) in a study that is being funded by the European Union (J. Cohen PI). The study will be conducted with advanced cancer patients and their family caregivers in six countries in Europe (Denmark, Netherlands, England, Ireland, Belgium, and Italy). Northouse is also collaborating with researchers in Australia who are adapting the FOCUS program to address the needs of palliative care patients and their family caregivers in Australia (FOCUSau), with funding from the Australian government (P. Hudson, PI).

Dr. Northouse's research has been funded by the National Institute for Nursing Research, National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research, and the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Current Research Grants and Programs

  • 2017-2022 - Efficacy of a Couple-focused, Tailored Symptom Self-Management mHealth Intervention for Prostate Cancer Patients and Partners. Grant from the National Institute for Nursing Research, R01NR016990 (L.Song, PI) (L.Northouse, Consultant).
  • 2019-2024 - Evaluation of Dyadic Psychoeducational Interventions for People with Advanced Cancer and their Informal Caregivers: An International Randomized Controlled Trial. Grant funded by the European Union (J.Cohen, Belgium, PI) (L. Northouse, Consultant).
  • 2021-2025 - Improving the Wellbeing of People with Advanced Cancer and their Family Carers: An Effectiveness-implementation Trial of an Australian Dyadic Digital Health Intervention (FOCUSau). Grant funded by National Health and Research Council (P. Hudson PI) (L. Northouse, Consultant).


Prior to achieving emerita faculty status, Dr. Northouse’s primary teaching responsibilities were courses on research methods at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels and on implementing evidence-based research findings in nursing practice. She was also a frequent guest lecturer for undergraduate courses on topics related to helping families of patients with a serious illness. She also gave guest lectures at the UM School of Public Health on topics that pertained to conducting theory-based intervention studies. Dr. Northouse has directed a number of doctoral dissertations and masters research projects on topics related to cancer survivorship, caregiving, family communication, and psychosocial adjustment to chronic illness.

Affiliations / Service

  • Member, National Advisory Board, Cancer Support Community, Cancer Experience Registry: Caregivers (2014-present)
  • Member, Advisory Committee, POLARIS (Predicting Optimal Cancer Rehabilitation and Supportive Care), International Data and Sharing Project, Amsterdam (2014-present)
  • Member, Planning Committee, Caring for Caregivers and Patients: Revisiting the Research and Clinical Priorities for Informal Caregiving. National Cancer Institute and National Institute for Nursing Research (2015)
  • Member, Board of Directors, American Psycho-Oncology Society (2010-2013)
  • Co-Chair, Prostate Advisory Committee, Michigan Department of Community Health, 2006-2013
  • Co-Director, Socio-behavioral Program, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, 2004-2012
  • Member, Research Priorities Committee, Oncology Nursing Society, 2009-2011
  • Member, National Caregiving Quality Committee, Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, 2009-2012

Notable Awards / Honors

  • Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, 1993-present
  • Mara Morgensen Flaherty Award, Oncology Nursing Society, for significant contributions to psychosocial care of people with cancer and their family caregivers, 2012
  • Distinguished Researcher Award, Oncology Nursing Society, for excellence in oncology nursing science, 2013
  • Spirit of Collaboration Award, Michigan Cancer Consortium, State of Michigan for excellent academic-community partnership to improve care for oncology patients and their family caregivers, 2013
  • Harold Burdette Award for Excellence in Research, Walther Cancer Program, Indiana University, for significant contributions to behavioral research with cancer patients and their families, 2013
  • Excellence in Research Award, Sigma Theta Tau, Rho Chapter, 2014


  • PhD (Nursing Research), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 1985
  • MSN (Mental Health Nursing), Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 1979
  • MA (Counseling Psychology), Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, 1978
  • BSN, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 1970

Publication Highlights

  • Matthys, O., De Vleminck, A., Dierickx, S., Deliens, L., Van Goethem, V., Lapeire, L., Groenvold, M., Lund, L., Arnfeldt, C.M., Sengeloev, L., Pappot, H., Johnsen, A.T., Guerin, S., Larkin, P.J., Jordan, C., Connolly, M.,  D’Alton, P., Costantini, M., DiLeo, S., Guberti, M., Turola, E., van der Heide, A., Witkamp, E., Rietjens, J., van der Wel, M., Brazil, K., Prue, G., Reid, J., Scott, D., Bristowe, K., Harding, R., Normand,C., May, P., Cronin, C., Northouse, L., Hudson, P., & Cohen, J. (2021). Effectiveness of a nurse-delivered (FOCUS+) and a web-based (iFOCUS) psychoeducational intervention for people with advanced cancer and their family caregivers (DIAdIC): study protocol for an international randomized controlled trial. BMC Palliative Care 20:193.Published online,

  • Ellis, K.R., Oh, S., Hecht, H.K., & *Northouse, L.L. (2021). Symptom distress and quality of life among Black Americans with cancer and their family caregivers. Psycho-oncology 30 (8)1356-1365. doi:10.1002/pons.5691 PMID: 33861891

  • Song, L., Tan, X., Bredle, J., Bennett, A.V., Northouse, L. (2020). Psychometric properties of the FACT-G quality of life scale for family caregivers of cancer patients. Quality of Life Research, published online April 3, 2020,

  • Katapodi, M.C., Ming, C., Northouse, L.L., Duffy, S.A., Duquette, D., Mendelson-Victor, K.E., Milliron, K.J., Merajver, S.D., Dino, I.D., & Janz, N.K. (2020). Genetic testing and surveillance of young breast cancer survivors and blood relatives: A cluster randomized trial. Cancers, published online doi:10.3390/cancers12092526.

  • Titler, M.G., Shuman, C., Dockham, B., Harris, M, & Northouse, L.L. (2020). Acceptability of FOCUS, a dyadic psycho-educational intervention for people with cancer and their family caregivers delivered using a small group format in the community. Oncology Nursing Forum, 47 (3), 342-351. DOI 10.1188/20.ONF.

  • Northouse, L., Shuman, C., Visovatti, M., Dockham, B., & Titler, M. (2019). FOCUS: A psychoeducational program for cancer patients and their family caregivers, In A.J. Applebaum (Ed). Cancer Caregivers (pp.130-148), New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Longacre, M.L., Applebaum, A.J., Buzaglo, J.S., Miller, M.F., Golant, M., Rowland, J.H., Given, B., Dockham, B., & Northouse, L. (2018). Reducing informal caregiver burden in cancer: Evidence-based programs in practice. Translational Behavioral Medicine,8,145-155. DOI:10.1093/tbm/ibx028

  • Dockham, B., Schafenacker, A., Yoon, H., Ronis, D., Kershaw, T., Titler, M. & Northouse, L.L., (2016). Implementation of a psycho-educational program for cancer patients and family caregivers at a Cancer Support Community Affiliate: A pilot effectiveness study. Cancer Nursing, 39, 169-180.

  • Kershaw, T., Ellis, K., Yoon, H., Schafenacker, A., Katapodi, M. & Northouse, L.L. (2015). The interdependence of advanced cancer patients and their family caregivers' mental health, physical health, and self-efficacy over time. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 49, 901-911.

  • Northouse, L.L., Schafenacker, A., Barr, K., Yoon, H., Brittain, K., Song, L., Ronis, D. &An, L. (2014). A tailored web-based psycho-educational intervention for cancer patients and their family caregivers. Cancer Nursing, 37, 321-330.

  • Northouse, L.L., Mood, D., Schafenacker, A., Kalemkerian, G., Zalupski, M., LoRusso, P., et al. (2013). Randomized clinical trial of a brief and extensive dyadic intervention for advanced cancer patients and their family caregivers. Psycho-Oncology, 22, 555-563

  • Northouse, L. L., Katapodi, M., Song, L., Zhang, L., Mood, D.W. (2010). Interventions with family caregivers of cancer patients: Meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Ca: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 60(5): 317-39.

  • Sanda, M.G., Dunn, R.L., Michalski, J., Sandler, H.M., Northouse, L.L., Hembroff, L., Lin, X., Greenfield, T.K., Litwin, M.S., Saigal, C.S., Mahadevan, A., Klein, E., Kibel, A., Pisters, L.L., Kuban, D., Kaplan, I., Wood, D., Ciezki, J., Shah, N., Wei, J.T. (2008). Quality of life and satisfaction with outcome among prostate-cancer survivors. New England Journal of Medicine, 358, 1250-61.

  • Northouse, L.L., Mood, D.W., Schafenacker, A., Montie, J.E., Sandler, H.M., Forman, J.D., Hussain, M., Pienta, K.J., Smith, D.C., Kershaw, T. (2007) Randomized clinical trial of a family intervention for prostate cancer patients and their spouses. Cancer, 110, 2809-2818.

  • Northouse, L.L., Mood, D.W., Montie, J.E., Sandler, H.M., Forman, J.D., Hussain, M., Pienta, K.J., Smith, D.C., Sanda, M.G., Kershaw, T. (2007) Living with prostate cancer: Patients' and spouses' psychosocial status and quality of life. J Clin Onc, 25, 4171-4177.

  • Northouse, L., Kershaw, T., Mood, D., & Schafenacker, A. (2005). Effects of a family intervention on the quality of life of women with recurrent breast cancer and their family caregivers. Psycho-Oncology, 14, 478-491.

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