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Title: Existential practitioners' experience of feeling competent in death work : an interpretative phenomenological analysis
Author: Murphy, Ellen Louise
Awarding Body: University of Wales
Current Institution: Regent's University London
Date of Award: 2013
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Competency assessment and evaluation for all psychological therapies are now a common requirement. Recent international research studies have resulted in the development of the phrase ‘death competence’ as “tolerating and managing clients’ problems related to dying, death, and bereavement” with an urging for death work competence to be an ethical imperative (Gamino & Ritter, 2012). A further study of 176 death work professionals using an open ended question and content analysis proposed a model of death work competence that suggests it is dependent on more than knowledge and skills, with the emergence of emotional and existential coping as key elements (Chan & Tin, 2012). This study aims to build on this existing research with an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of six existential practitioners` experience of feeling competent in their death work, grounding the research in Heidegger`s notion of being-towards-death. The aim was to get as close as possible to the lived experience of death work competency in a small, purposive sample to investigate the subjective meanings and understandings of their death work competency. Semi structured interviews were conducted with five major themes emerging. These were frameworks for death work competency; existential engagement in competent death work; existential ways of being in death work; the psychological impact of death work on feelings of competency and the elusive essence of death work competency. The significant finding was the primary import placed by all participants on dialogues with personal mortality, suffering and death as providing them with “competency in adversity” and “competency in fragility” that were vital for their competent death work, both personally and professionally. These findings match the identification of existential coping and emotional coping as key elements in death work competency in the previous research. From this research a tentative framework is proposed for death work competency that looks to include these vital elements of an engagement with existential issues and personal mortality, for counselling psychologists and death work practitioners. Further research is suggested with regards to the absence or presence of similar experiences of death work competencies in other fields of death work with wider implications for training in both professional organisations and teaching institutions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Counseling--Methods ; Grief therapy ; Terminal Care--Psychology