October Author of the Month: Robert Neimeyer

Robert A Neimeyer, editor of Techniques of Grief Therapy, Assessment and Intervention, is our Routledge Mental Health Author of the Month for October 2015. Read this exclusive interview and learn more about his fantastic new edition!

Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD, is a professor of psychology at the University of Memphis, where he also maintains an active clinical practice. Neimeyer has published 27 books, including Techniques of Grief Therapy: Creative Practices for Counseling the Bereaved and Grief and the Expressive Arts: Practices for Creating Meaning, the latter with Barbara Thompson, and serves as editor of the journal Death Studies. The author of over 400 articles and book chapters and a frequent workshop presenter, he is currently working to advance a more adequate theory of grieving as a meaning-making process. Neimeyer served as president of the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) and chair of the International Work Group for Death, Dying, & Bereavement. In recognition of his scholarly contributions, he has been granted the Eminent Faculty Award by the University of Memphis, made a fellow of the clinical psychology division of the American Psychological Association, and given lifetime achievement awards by both the Association for Death Education and Counseling and the International Network on Personal Meaning.

I suppose the simplest answer to the question of why I spent a year writing and editing Techiques of Grief Therapy: Assessment and Intervention is that a couple dozen times per year I find myself offering workshops on the topic. There, I regularly meet creative clinicians who are bristling with novel ideas and time-tested practices for addressing what is distinctly difficult with bereaved clients, and I couldn't resist the opportunity to help bring their models and methods to the attention of a readership who can use them. Too often, grief therapy is seen as a misleadingly simple process of providing "emotional support," "normalizing" client reactions, and offering "psychoeducation" on the predictable course of grieving. But all of these good intentions can fall short of the complexity of working in the "hot shop" of therapy with parents whose child has overdosed, a spouse whose partner has died by suicide, or an older woman who has lost a child and a grandchild in the span of less than a year. By recruiting over 60 clearly written, clinically grounded, and appealingly brief chapters, each conveying a specific therapeutic strategy or tool and illustrating its use in an actual case study, I wanted to offer "news you can use" to other therapists like myself who can profit from such resources. Secondarily, I wanted to offer a much richer field of methods to researchers to investigate, rather than falling back on the few practices described previously in enough detail to permit their systematic study. In other words, I wanted to enlarge the toolbox on which professionals rely, and that researchers might investigate in more clinically informative studies going forward.

One thing? Hmm. How about three? First, I'd like them to be excited and inspired by some of the fresh ideas that can help organize and enrich bereavement support and grief therapy. There is a revolution happening in our understanding of loss, and the opening chapters of the book offer several windows on this world. Second, I'd like readers--clinicians and researchers alike--to explore the many new tools for clinical assessment offered n the form of well-validated measures, each offered for free use by readers, and provided along with a scoring key. This generous selection of brief scales can assist with not only the detection of grief symptoms, struggles for meaning, and social support in the bereaved, but also help document the effectiveness of our interventions. And finally, the several dozen specific therapeutic techniques should help readers to become more creative and responsive grief therapists, whether they are working with children, adolescents, adults or elders, and whether their context of practice is the hospice, hospital or private practice. Ultimately, I hope readers will simply take away greater competence in reaching out with compassion and flexibility to bereaved clients who greatly need what they have to offer.

The field of grief therapy is both broader and deeper than is suggested by yesterday's models of stages or tasks of grieving. And an equally broad and deep set of methods is evolving in step with developments in bereavement theory and research. This book, Techniques of Grief Therapy, Assessment and Intervention, like its predecessor was organized to compile and communicate them clearly and conveniently.

Somehow the ubiquity of loss has given many clinicians and the graduate programs that train them the impression that grief is a simple matter that requires no specialized skills beyond empathic listening and perhaps a few techniques cribbed from manualized treatments for depression. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While the majority of the bereaved are resilient, those who seek our services deserve and often need a creative and compassionate response based on understanding the gravity of grief, and the way it can challenge, complicate and sometimes shatter our lives, often worsening our client's prior struggles to cope, while also introducing new ones. Every clinician will benefit from an expanded toolbox for engaging such cases. Techniques of Grief Therapy, Assessment and Intervention was designed to fill this need.

Visit Dr. Neimeyer's website for more information about him, his research and the practice of grief therapy: www.robertneimeyerphd.com

Click here to read Dr. Neimeyer's interview with Psychology Today.

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