When Death Enters the Therapeutic Space : Existential Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Counselling book cover
1st Edition

When Death Enters the Therapeutic Space
Existential Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Counselling

Edited By

Laura Barnett

ISBN 9780415416559
Published December 9, 2008 by Routledge
256 Pages

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Book Description

Although it is a natural and inescapable part of life, death is a subject that is often neglected in psychotherapeutic literature and training. In When Death Enters the Therapeutic Space Laura Barnett and her contributors offer us insights into working with mortality in the therapeutic encounter.

Taking an existential perspective, the book brings together a variety of client groups, all of whom have experienced a confrontation with mortality, and encourages the reader to engage with and reflect upon the subject of death. Although this may initially evoke anxiety and distress, Barnett and her contributors introduce the reader to the 'vitality of death' (Koestenbaum): an energy and focus that can come from confronting our greatest fears and anxieties, including the anxiety aroused by our own mortality. Topics covered include:

  • philosophical roots and principal approaches to existential therapy
  • health related issues including cancer, HIV and Intensive Care
  • surviving violent trauma
  • creating a safe space for the client
  • short prognosis and palliative care
  • bereavement.

When Death Enters the Therapeutic Space presents therapists with an understanding of what it means to experience such traumas and prepares them for helping the client. It will be useful for trainee counsellors and experienced therapists alike.

Table of Contents

van Deurzen, Foreword. Barnett, Introduction. Barnett, The Philosophical Roots of Existential Therapies. Lockett, Reflections on Cancer Counselling. Horne, HIV as a Mirror to Life. Barnett, Surviving Intensive Care. Oakley, Creating Safety for the Client (The London 7/7 Bombings). Blackwell, Mortality and Meaning in Work with Refugee Survivors of Torture and Organized Violence. Heaton, Reflections on Suicide and Despair. Smith-Pickard, The Experience of Working with Patients with a Short Prognosis. Diffley, Fife, Lockett, Palliative Care, Pastoral Care and Counselling – Working Together, Learning from One Another. Young, Working With Bereavement. Chalmers, Working with Bereaved Parents. Sorensen, And When the Therapist or Supervisor Dies. Barnett, Dialogues: Buber, Rogers, Levinas and the Therapeutic Relationship. Barnett, The Therapeutic Relationship, When Death Enters the Therapeutic Space.

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Laura Barnett is an existential psychotherapist and supervisor working in the NHS and in private practice. She manages the Cancer Counselling Service and the Psychological Aftercare Service for Intensive Care Patients, which she set up at Mayday University Hospital, Croydon.


"Though mourning and intimations of mortality often enter the therapeutic space, few psychotherapy books focus on this. At the same time, the therapeutic input into UK palliative services is often not strategically thought through, not the least because of voluntary sector involvement with NHS services. This book is therefore a welcome exploration of therapeutic practice when dealing with death... As a consultant practitioner in the field, I can see myself using this book as part of an educational programme. It is a valuable contribution to the ongoing development of this specialism within the therapeutic field." - Ana Draper, Mortality, Vol. 14, No. 4, November 2009

"When Death Enters the Therapeutic Space is an excellent work for giving therapists some background in dealing with the realities as well as the philosophies of dying." - Bassima Schbley, Ph.D., in the Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic