Karen Fergus

Associate Professor

Clinical Psychologist

Locations / Contact Info:

243 Behavioural Science - BSB
Keele Campus
Phone: 416 736 2100 Ext. 22986

Email address(es):


Faculty & School/Dept.

Faculty of Health - Department of Psychology


PhD - 2003


My research focuses on the coping and adaptation processes of individuals affected by life threatening illness in general, and cancer specifically.  I have a strong interest in intimate relationships and how couples adjust to illness, adversity, and loss.  I employ qualitative methods in order to derive in depth understanding of these experiences.  These findings in turn inform the development of psychotherapeutic and psychoeducational interventions (individual, couple, group, and online) intended to reduce distress and suffering associated with illness.

Selected Publications

 Cullen, K.A., Fergus, K.D., DasGupta, T., Kwong, I., Fitch, M., Doyle, C., & Adams, L. (In Press). Toward clinical care guidelines for vaginal dilator use in women recovering from cervical cancer. Supportive Care in Cancer.

Stephen, J., Fergus, K., Sellick, S., Speca, M., Taylor-Brown, J., Turner, J., Collie, K., McLeod, D., & Rojubally, A. (2013). When jurisdictional boundaries become barriers to good patient care. Current Oncology, 20, 10-13.

Stephen, J., Rojubally, A., MacGregor, K., McLeod, D., Speca, M., Taylor-Brown, J., Fergus, K., Collie, K., Turner, J., Sellick, S., & Mackenzie, G. (2013). Evaluation of CancerChatCanada: A program of online support for Canadians affected by cancer. Current Oncology, 20, 39-47. Collaborator


Granek, L. & Fergus, K.D. (2012). Resistance, agency, and liminality in women’s   accounts of symptom appraisal and help-seeking upon discovery of a breast abnormality. Social Science and Medicine, 75, 1753-1761.


Cullen, K.A., Fergus, K.D., DasGupta, T., Doyle, C., Fitch, M., & Adams, L. (2012). From ‘sex toy’ to intrusive imposition: A qualitative exploration of women’s experiences with vaginal dilator use following treatment for gynecological cancer. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 9, 1162–1173.


Fergus, K.D. (2011). Rupture and repair of the couple’s communal body with prostate cancer. Families, Systems and Health, 29, 95-113.


Fergus, K.D., Fitzgerald, B., Granek, L., Clemons, M., Zalany, L. & Eisen, A. (2011). The symptom appraisal of breast cancer in the context of an intimate relationship. Journal of Health Psychology. 16, 653-666.


Fergus, K.D., & Gray, R.E. (2009). Relationship vulnerabilities during breast cancer: Patient and partner perspectives. Psycho-Oncology, 18, 1311-1322.


Rennie, D. L., & Fergus, K.D. (2006). Embodied categorization in the application of the grounded theory method: Methodical hermeneutics in action. Theory & Psychology, 16, 483-503.


Fergus, K.D., Gray, R.E., & Fitch, M.I. (2002). Sexual dysfunction and the preservation of manhood: Experiences of men with prostate cancer. Journal of Health Psychology, 7, 303-316.


Fergus, K.D., Gray, R.E., Fitch, M.I., Labrecque, M. & Phillips, C. (2002). Active consideration: Conceptualizing patient-provided support for spouse caregivers in the context of prostate cancer. Qualitative Health Research, 12, 492-514.


Gray, R.E., Fitch, M.I., Fergus, K.D., Mykhalovskiy, E., & Church, K. (2002). Hegemonic masculinity and the experience of prostate cancer: A narrative approach. Journal of Aging and Identity, 7, 43-62.


Fergus, K.D., & Reid, D.W. (2002). Integrating constructivist and systemic metatheory in family therapy. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 15, 41-63.


Fergus, K.D., & Reid, D.W. (2001). The couple's mutual identity and reflexivity: A systemic-constructivist approach to the integration of persons and systems. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 11, 385-410.


Note: Underlined names are of current /former trainees of Dr. Fergus


Other Research Outputs

Couplelinks.ca: A web-based intervention to improve dyadic coping and couple adaptation to breast cancer. 



Odette Cancer Centre - Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Service/Community Activities

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - Ontario Region
Member, Research and Health Care Advisory Committee (2007-2011)

Interprofessional Psychosocial Oncology Distance Education Course
Founding Faculty Member

National Alliance for Psychosocial Oncology and Supportive Care Online (NAPSCO)
Founding Member, Steering Committee (2006-present)


Anselm Strauss Award for Qualitative Family Research - 2003

Cause Leadership Award - Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - - 2013


Currently available to supervise graduate students: Yes

Currently taking on work-study students, Graduate Assistants or Volunteers: No

Available to supervise undergraduate thesis projects: Yes

Current Research

A feasibility study of an online intervention for sexual rehabilitation in prostate cancer.  (Co-I). Deborah McLeod (PI) Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute, DMRF Soillse Award for Prostate Cancer Research.

A Multisite Randomized Controlled Trial of Couplelinks.ca:  The First Online Intervention for Young Women with Breast Cancer and their Male Partners. (PI).  Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance

A Multi-Site Randomized Control Trial Testing Efficacy of Professional and Peer-Led Online Support Groups for Young Canadian Breast Cancer Survivors.  (Co-I). Joanne Stephen (PI)  Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance.

An Online Psychoeducational Intervention for Young Women with Breast Cancer and their Partners.  (PI). Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Ontario Region. 

Identifying Strategies to Promote Earlier Presentation of Breast Cancer: Perspectives from Patients and Family Physicians.  (Co-I).  Barbara Fitgerald and Ruth Heisey (Co-PIs) Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Ontario Region.