Meet the Coping Engine


This website is designed to help you find solutions to problems causing you emotional distress.

About Us

The Coping Engine is a teaching tool intended to help people handle moments of distress with greater ease. It was originally developed in the 1990's, at Stanford University Medical Center's Department of Radiation Oncology by Patricia Fobair, LCSW, MPH. During Fobair's experience with breast cancer in 1987, she felt confronted with negative feelings and defensive coping, less equipped to find solutions to the day-to-day problems that came along during treatment. It occurred to her that she had not learned to talk about negative feelings as a child; she would do well to face those feelings and thoughts. When moments of feeling 'helpless' arose, she realized that only "very small children are really helpless." Adults have some action available to them, calling a friend, seeking advice, or problem solving.

The current Coping Engine was built on the work of Robert Matano, Ph.D., who created the inner circles for his work with drug addicts treated in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Stanford University Medical Center. Fobair adapted Matano's work by adding the 'Active Coping' circle suggesting cognitive methods. This work was published in, Fobair P. Cancer Support Groups and Group Therapies. In J. Williams & K. Ell (eds.) Mental Health Research. Washington DC: NASW. 1998.

In 2007-2012, Fobair joined the Fulbright Specialist list for Social Work, Administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, a division of International Education of the United States Department of State. Her first grant was in support of work developing a Supportive Care Center in Ankara, Turkey at the Cancer Center. Her second assignment was developed in collaboration with Grace Mishler, MSW in the Social Work Department at university in Ho Chi Minh City, 2012.

The stimulation for the Coping website, came from the enthusiastic response to lectures on "Coping with Loss of Control" given to Social Work Undergraduates at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, and to the large audience in the United State Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City during November 2012. Cross-cultural appreciation of the teaching tool seemed to indicate that there was something universal about the needs of people facing moments of stress.

Development of the Coping Engine

Patricia Fobair, LCSW, MPH developed the Coping Engine as part of her work with cancer patients, 1990-2013 at Stanford University Hospital. Initially called, "Coping with Loss of Control" it was used with cancer patients treated in the Department of Radiation Oncology. It evolved into the "Coping Circles" and "" as new opportunities developed.

Patricia Fobair, LCSW, MPH is a California licensed clinical social worker (CA LCS #5418) who worked in San Francisco Bay area hospitals for over forty years.'. She initiated group therapy support for cancer patients at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco, January, 1970, (now part of the University of California in San Francisco). In the 1980's, she started multiple groups for breast, young people, and multiple cancer diagnoses at Stanford University Hospital's, Department of Radiation Oncology, (1980-2003). With her colleague, Susan Weisberg, LCSW and six patients treated for Hodgkin's disease, Fobair developed the "Surviving!"magazine which featured stories written by patients. They published four times a year, 1983-2003. At the behest of Dr. Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD, she facilitated in the development of the Supportive Care Program at the center for Integrative Medicine at Stanford Hospital, in 1998-2003, led by David Spiegel MD in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine.

From the 1980's through 2003, Fobair was active in psychosocial and medical research on patients' quality of life after treatment for Hodgkin's disease, and breast cancer. Her work has been published in over 40 journal articles and book chapters, 1975-2012, and presented throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. From 2007-2012, Fobair was a CIES Fulbright Specialist on the Social Work list with the United States State Department. During tours in Turkey (2008) and Vietnam (2012), she worked with professional colleague, Grace Mishler, MSW using the Coping Engine teaching tool. It was particularly popular in Vietnam at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, and at the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, where an audience of 250 people did not want the lecture to end until their questions had been answered.

Sensing that this teaching tool had cross cultural appeal, Fobair dedicated herself in January, 2013 to explore the useability of the Coping Engine for the general public, for patients with chronic disease, or for others having trouble coping with life's annoying and persistent problems...Pat Fobair

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