The National Palliative Care Research Center

Curing suffering through palliative care research.


Christina L. Rush PhD

Clinical Health Psychologist

Massachusetts General Hospital

Grant Year
Grant Term
2 years
Grant Type
Kornfeld Scholars Program

Project Description
Resilient Together ALS


Approximately 31,000 people in the United States and 500,000 people worldwide are living with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease (NDD) that leads to loss of motor control, difficulty swallowing, paralyses, respiratory failure, and death. ALS is associated with substantial emotional distress after diagnosis, and this is interdependent between patients and care-partners (together called dyads). Untreated emotional distress is associated with more rapid deterioration in ALS and poor quality of life in dyads. People with ALS and their care-partners also identify existential distress, and exploring spiritual needs, beliefs, and meaning is important in the context of terminal illness.

Combining psychosocial and spirituality skills as part of a palliative dyadic intervention delivered early after an ALS diagnosis is as an unexplored opportunity to prevent chronic emotional distress and improve the lived experience of both members of the dyad. As a Kornfeld Scholar, I will lay the groundwork to develop Resilient Together-ALS (RT-ALS), a dyadic palliative psychosocial and spiritual intervention to prevent chronic emotional distress.  I will build relationships with patients, care-partners, and healthcare experts to learn about lived experiences with ALS as well as clinic and dyad preferences for a dyadic intervention. These initial steps as a NPCRC Kornfeld Scholar will strengthen my ability compete for NIH awards to further refine and test RT-ALS with the goal to improve the lived experience of patients with ALS and their care-partners.  


Christina Rush, PhD, is a clinical health psychologist with the Center for Health Outcomes and Interdisciplinary Research (CHOIR) at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School (MGH/HMS). She completed pre-doctoral internship (health psychology track) at the VA Maryland Healthcare System/University of Maryland School of Medicine Consortium and doctoral training in clinical health psychology at the University of Colorado Denver.  At CHOIR, Dr. Rush is the lead clinician on the Recovering Together clinical trial building resiliency and improving emotional distress in neurocritical care patients and their informal caregivers. Dr. Rush’s research explores the intersection of mind-body medicine, religion and spirituality, and health and well-being. She is leveraging this along with resources and partnerships at CHOIR/MGH/HMS to develop dyadic interventions informed by the biopsychosocial spiritual model for patients with ALS and their loved ones.