Psychotherapy with Dying Patients

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Death is an existential fact, and it is more than likely the model for all human feelings of abandonment and separation. Is it, then, so difficult to understand why one should not feel anxious when faced with leaving the life he finds so rewarding and enriching? What we have in mind is the shared denial of death, in both the patient and the psychotherapist, and that the current thinking is overwhelming on the passionate, pleasurable, and sexual aspects of the human experience. After all, if we actually believe in the reality-principle, death is, or should be, as much a part of our discussions as life, else we deny something vital to our patients and, of course, to ourselves. If we are going to be able to offer a therapy for the dying person, then the psychotherapist must examine his own attitudes towards his very own death. It is the countertransference aspects that must first be understood. It has been our impression that psychotherapists are especially reluctant to face up to death in their personal lives and in their professional fields. For the most, the psychotherapist relegates matters of dying to other specialties or paramedical professions. It is only within the last decade that the psycho therapist has allowed himself some closeness with the dying person. (26 pp.)

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